Shelf Life

How long can cares be put on hold?

When someone encounters a problem, a choice must be made in dealing with the circumstances. Within the setting of Nelly Dean is a class system that dictates social expectations. Case, the author, despite those delineations of character portrayal, generates an authentic language and disposition within the society of Wuthering Heights that plays out the dramatic tension of such an arrangement as this.

The ebb and flow of dramatic tension is interspersed in differing ways in the text, and in my opinion, more effectively than Bronte’s story. One such example is Nelly hiding from her father. Nelly’s mother finally comes straight out and addresses Nelly’s fear with him and encourages both parties to make amends. This setup is certainly paid off with the show of affection to Nelly and the subsequent death of her father before she arrives to see him. As a reader, I felt satisfied to find the payoff come sooner than later, or not at all. I certainly did not get that sense of satisfaction while reading Wuthering Heights.

The tension of Nelly’s relationship with her mom builds up as Nelly subjectively edits what is read to Mrs. Earnshaw and written in reply to Nelly. The payoff comes soon enough as Mary arrives to visit Mrs. Earshaw in her last days. Which, pleasantly, leads into more dramatic tension between the kids as Mrs. Earnshaw tells the story of Mary coming to Wuthering Heights to nurse Hindley.

The issue of Nelly and Hindley’s secret pregnancy is left in preservation “on the shelf” for too long. The dramatic tension creates a true linear plot of Hindley’s absence, Nelly’s miscarriage, and the shocking introduction of Francis as Hindley returns.

Another point is when Nelly said she came to regret what happened in the fairy cave. That was a bit of a shock to me, but it led directly to the payoff of the tension when Hindley catches on that she is pregnant.

Overall, I believe the Nelly Dean novel uses this literary device in an effective manor. If Wuthering Heights points of dramatic tension were items on a shelf, reading the book would be like picking up random items that may or may not make sense and some that are ‘unlabeled.’ In my opinion, Case effectively makes the plot points stay within the “shelf life” of the story unlike the long and drawn out novel by Bronte.

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