STORY WITHIN A STORY:
Wuthering Heights (1847), Emily Bronte’s only novel is a stark passionate romantic novel, very reminiscent of Shakespeare’s, with its stormy scenes in his tragedies. According to Emily Bronte it has a wild and cruel reality and is original beyond any other novel of that century.
Emily Bronte’s narrative technique is like a Chinese Box, which has a box inside the other. Wuthering Heights can be aptly described as a Chinese Box; for as we enter the novel we keep entering one room of the novel and then another and we are taken into these rooms in the novel by different characters, from each of whom, an new story emerges. But at the same time we remain connected to the entire novel. Hence one may call Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, a story within a story.
Though slightly awkward and hard to believe, the narrative used could not have been any other but this particular mode as it is the narrative that makes the story more comprehensible.
The narrative starts with the coming of a stranger, Mr. Lockwood, to the Heights, and who becomes curious about the house and insists in knowing more about the landlord. Then the housekeeper then tells him the story about Heathcliff, the owner of the house. She recounts the 30yrs of events, complete with dialogue. Some which involved herself or said in her presence, while dome were second hand from others in the house and out of lit.
Lockwood records all of this and 9 months later when he returns again Nelly tells the remaining story and Lockwood records this too. All these records make up the novel, which is narrated in the first person, singular. And who better to narrate than Ellen Dean, the housekeeper of both Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange, the two houses that set the stage for the novel. Again, who better than the housekeeper, to feel the emotions of the characters living in these houses, and to express them explicitly?
Moreover, Ellen Dean, the housekeeper keeps the pace of the n novel moving with her lucid narrating and is later assisted in the narration, first by Mr. Lockwood who describes this visits to the landlord Heathcliff and then by Nelly.
To illustrate the Chinese Box, technique, the story begins with the narration by Mr. Lockwood, and then shifts to the housekeeper’s narration. Mrs. Dean is actually the principal narrator and her earlier narration is in fact, Lockwood’s narration.
Through this narrative, Bronte succeeds in blending authenticity to her tale, maintains an objective viewpoint, and subtly shifts the readers’ sympathy.