Reading classic literature provides plenty of benefits to the reader such as a better understanding of other people’s feelings and thoughts and the consequences of their actions. Often, the perception of those benefits directly depends on the narrator of a book. Emily Bronte’s novel Wuthering Heights narrated by two characters, Mr. Lockwood and Ellen (Nelly) Dean, shows how different storytellers affect the process of reading. Mr. Lockwood’s description of the events as an outsider allows the reader to see the story from a different point of view but also interferes with the perception of the book and makes the audience question his reliability.
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At first, Mr. Lockwood’s presence in the story seems to not be important since it could have been narrated only by Nelly as someone close to the main characters. His character is designed to connect with the audience at some point as “a person who is aquatinted with reading and writing” bringing the similarities in his personality and the reader (Ezzaoua 42). As Nelly takes the place of the main narrator, Mr. Lockwood is called up to keep curiosity to the story, “I feel I shall not rest if I go to bed; so be good enough to sit and chat an hour.” (Bronte 42). Although Mr. Lockwood does not have any effect on the main story, his comments influence the feelings of the reader.
As Mr. Lockwood narrates the story by writing in his diary, he has the opportunity to ponder and logically express his opinions. Nelly, on the other hand, has a “heavily dramatized narrative” as she speaks, making “the impact more powerful than Lockwood’s narration” (Bensoussan 4). However, as a direct participant of the events, Nelly in her memories may exaggerate or belittle certain moments thus making her narration doubtful. Mr. Lockwood’s narration makes the reader not only empathize with the characters but also question their personalities, “Possibly, some people might suspect him of a degree of under-bred pride” (Bronte 8). The way he deliberately describes everything in his diary makes the reader look at the story from different points of view.
On the other hand, Mr. Lockwood himself can be biased and judgemental, as he is just a spectator. These features of his do not make the reader sympathize with him, but they show that “the narrators … frequently err in their interpretations” (Ebert 8). The fact that he is an outsider to the story and describes what he sees without having a personal attachment to other characters should make the reader believe that his words are truthful. Nevertheless, the situation is the opposite because of the same reasons; the way he sometimes jumps to conclusions or changes his mind brings controversy to his character and the events happening. For most of the story, Mr. Lockwood is a bystander without empathy or character development, which makes the reader doubt his thinking.
In conclusion, while Mr. Lockwood may not be the most reliable narrator, as he just retells someone else’s story, his presence is crucial. Without Mr. Lockwood’s narration, the story may not be as comprehensive and may lack diversity in the way the reader perceives the story and thinks over the details. He, as well the reader, does not participate in the main events, but he is curious and observant, and his narration brings a certain amount of suspense to the way the story is build and increases interest to it.
Bensoussan, Natacha. “The Narrative Structure of Wuthering Heights: An Examination of Nelly Dean and Lockwood.” Ellipsis, vol. 44, no. 24, 2017.
Bronte, Emily. Wuthering Heights. Ignatius Press, 2008.
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Ebert, Lisa. Ambiguity in Emily Brontë’s” Wuthering Heights”. Ferdinand Schöningh, 2020.
Ezzaoua, Omar. “On Double Narration in Wuthering Heights.” Studies in Literature and Language, vol. 22, no. 1, 2021, pp. 38-49.