Assignment for Third analytical paper
Due November 2, beginning of class

Choose one of the essays from Part Two of Wuthering Heights:  A Case Study in Contemporary Criticism, identify a major point or a subpoint made in the essay with which you want to take issue or which you want to extend,  and work out your counter argument or extension in a five-page essay, citing sufficient evidence from the novel to support your interpretation.


In "Nelly Dean and the Power of Wuthering Heights," John K. Mathison argues that the power of the novel derives from the fact that the narrator, Nelly Dean, is too "normal" and "healthy" to comprehend the exorbitant passions and actions of characters such as Heathcliff and Catherine.  The powerful effect on readers occur as they realize the inadequacy of the "normal" to interpret the deeper and truer feelings of the main characters and are forced to become active advocates for Heathcliff and Catherine in ways that could not occur with an omniscient narrator or a less admirable first-person narrator.  It is in this power that Brontë has created a genuine work of art.  However, by emphasizing Nelly's "normal" and "healthy" temperament, Mathison de-emphasizes the important fact that Nelly is a servant.  Much of her behavior can actually be accounted for not by the blindness to the finer feelings of the lovers, but by keen awareness of her position in the households she serves.

This assertion would then be demonstrated by a thorough discussion of passages in the novel that reveal Nelly's awareness of her class status and how that awareness determines some of her shortcomings both in her interpretations of  some situations and her behavior in times of crisis.

By realizing that one of the primary motivations for her behavior is her subordinate and often insecure position in relation to the inhabitants of Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange, at least a portion of a reader's sympathies and advocacy goes to her, rather than to Heathcliff and Catherine, whom a reader may well come to see as part of the oppressive and suppressive class structure that makes Nelly the unreliable narrator she most assuredly is.

See the Grading Criteria on your syllabus.