High Strung

High Strung

Why would Nelly Dean torture herself to stay at Wuthering Heights?

Of the characters in Nelly Dean beyond those in Bronte’s novel, I believe Nelly’s mother is most influential. The nature of the other characters’ interactions with Nelly is better displayed in this context. Where Bronte’s narrator ventures across the gothic evils of the characters and their contrivances, Case takes a higher road to the same effect.

Case’s novel has humor well placed to lighten the otherwise darker picture formerly painted in Wuthering Heights. After the sobering truth Hindley spoke about his drinking problem, Nelly was saddened. Then, Hindley chases her down. “ ‘Hey, Nelly,’ he cried, ‘remember this?’ Then he stretched his face into a solemn scowl and began sawing at an imaginary fiddle while his legs danced wildly beneath him, as he had done on that long-ago night. I laughed and clapped.” (p. 442) The effect creates a realistic longing any half-hearted human should have to bring joy to those around an individual despite his/her own problems. It is a reminder to remember the good times we have with friends and loved ones after they have passed.

Then, there is the tension, the largest difference in the two novels. As Nelly seemed like the rock that forded the storms in Bronte’s story, she was battered and shipwrecked against her own fortitude in Case’s version.

I find fault in Case’s novel at the start when Nelly’s mother speaks with Mr. Earnshaw in his office while Nelly listened. Her mother’s stammer at the word of Heathcliff to be treated as a blood relative gave me the immediate inclination that she had an affair with Earnshaw, with Nelly as the result. Which, in the end is true, and the reason for Nelly’s abuse at the hand of her ‘father.’ This seemed neatly packaged for Nelly’s mother being blood relations in a distant past relative.

I cannot say that I saw the end coming, though. In both books, the troubles begin with the arrival of Heathcliff. And, both have a happy ending for the main character that the narrator follows; in Bronte’s novel, Hareton marries Cathy, and in Case’s novel, Nelly is finally married and happy. The award for the largest twist and out of left field ending is certainly to Case’s Nelly Dean.

Nelly was strung along through the whole story, thinking she was a servant housekeeper, undeserving of Hindley. She threw herself into caring for the children that came along and finally collapsed in the end. Bodkin calling her illness the lifting of the weight of the world from her shoulders, like Atlas holds. That was certainly another light moment, but I felt it slightly contrived for her to go off on vacation, certainly well deserved goes without saying.

All told, I certainly enjoyed this novel and the more modern language compared to Wuthering Heights.

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