We are introduced to Wuthering Heights through Mr Lockwood’s eyes, and it clear from his language that he is well-bred, and despite his self-proclamation of being a misanthrope, it is clear almost immediately that he is not, as he reports, ‘I do myself the honour of calling as soon as possible after my arrival’1 to his new landlord. Both narrator and reader have their own early preconceptions of Heathcliff as a Byronic hero, and the sentimental Lockwood begins by believing Heathcliff to be similar to himself.
Possibly, some people might suspect him of a degree of underbred pride; I have a sympathetic chord within that tells me it is nothing of the sort: I know, by instinct, his reserve springs from an aversion to showy displays of feeling – to manifestations of mutual kindliness. He’ll love and hate equally under cover, and esteem it a species of impertinence to be loved or hated again. No, I’m running on too fast: I bestow my own attributes over liberally on him. (p.3)
Lockwood’s personality is important to understanding his narration – he is from a genteel class, therefore not used to the coarseness and brutality he encounters at Wuthering Heights, and so he persists in believing in the goodness of the people who reside there. The reader begins to separate himself from Lockwood’s analysis of Heathcliff as ‘a capital fellow!’ (p.1) and begins to make the comparison between Lockwood’s self-proclaimed misanthropy, and Heathcliff’s true misanthropy.
Another aspect of his personality, his uncommon curiousity, compels him to read Catherine’s diary which leads to his dream of listening to a sermon by the Reverend Jabes Branderham from the text “Seventy Times Seven”. This dream, a violent representation of what can occur with the absence of forgiveness, foreshadows the major theme of vengeance within the text. This prompts Lockwood’s second dream of the night, where he struggles with the ghost of Catherine Linton trying to seek refuge through his window. The gothic elements of this scene introduce the idea of the supernatural, as well as encouraging the interest of the reader to find out about Catherine Linton, and her link to Wuthering Heights.
It is important that Lockwood should be the one to experience Catherine’s apparition, because as the outsider, it leaves the ambiguity of the supernatural element to the reader’s own judgment. The vivid detail of the dream anchors the unreality in reality and as the novel continues, it becomes evident that it was more than a nightmare; most noticeably, by the usage of the name “Linton” instead of “Earnshaw”, and her cries of being lost on the moors for twenty years. If it had been Heathcliff to see her ghost, it could have been explained away by his fierce hunger to encounter her, but Lockwood makes it seem more terrible and realistic.
If Lockwood is the stranger in the novel, then Nelly is the familiar intimate. Her role in the text begins by telling the tale of Heathcliff and the other occupants of the house, and while her role in the plot has made her a credible witness, her judgments are not entirely reliable. Her limited viewpoint, and…