Bronte's Narrative Technique

Bronte's Narrative Technique

The action of the novel is presented in the form of a number of eyewitness accounts - those of Lockwood, Nelly, Heathcliff, Isabella, Cathy and Zillah. Nelly tells the bulk of the story to Lockwood but events are recorded in the words of those involved. What does this achieve?

We begin almost at the end of the story. Why is this?

Nelly's hugely detailed narrative moves on apace, bringing us close to the action. Consider the effect of her use of colloquialisms and inclusion of personal opinion. It is told in several sittings denoting the passage of time.

Lockwood is the recipient of her tale. His fascination helps us suspend our disbelief and we are also placed in the position of being more perceptive than the people involved in the story. Look at the differences in the way Lockwood and Nelly tell their parts of the story. It is very revealing about character.

How does each chapter begin and what is the effect of this?

The flashback technique is used to good effect. An event is revisited, often by a different character later in the novel. Examples are the burial of Catherine in Chapter 16 and then in Chapter 29 and the fight between Hindley and Heathcliff in Chapter 17 and Chapter 29. Look for other examples and explain what is achieved as a result.

The time structure is complex (we move back and forth), though there are few sudden jumps in the narrative. Broadly speaking the stories of Catherine and Cathy parallel each other in the way they are told. Days and weeks are related in detail and then the narrative moves forward in months or years.

There are other areas of symmetry. What are they? To what extent can parallels be drawn between the relationships of the first and second Catherines?

Like Thomas Hardy, Bronte uses images of nature to reflect human passions and to convey the essential characteristics of her gallery of characters.

What are the attitudes to nature of Catherine and Cathy?


The moors symbolise freedom to Catherine and Heathcliff; it is the place where they achieve their final union but look at which characters are out of their depth there.

Catherine uses images of the earth to describe her contrasting feelings for Edgar and Heathcliff. Look at what she says. Which are enduring and which are fragile?


Storms reflect danger and conflict. There is a storm on the night Heathcliff flees Wuthering Heights, when Catherine is buried and when Heathcliff dies.

What kind of weather is associated with Cathy?

Who finds the air at Wuthering Heights cold?


Traditionally life-giving but dangerous when out of controlled. At Wuthering Heights the hearth is the centre of life. Edgar orders a fire to be lit at the Grange, but it cannot do for Catherine what the warm sunshine at the Heights can.

Who orders that a fire be lit for him on the day prior to his death? What might this symbolise?

Catherine states that her soul and Heathcliff's are made of fire.


These images take on several forms - tears, streams, rain, snow, and frost. Cathy and Nelly go for a walk when rain is threatening, suggesting Cathy's low spirits; Hareton sheds tears over Heathcliff's corpse, suggesting his forgiving nature and deep feelings. Look for other examples.