In the nineteenth century, the Bronte sisters took the literary world by storm, with the release of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and her younger sister, Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights.
In Wuthering Heights, the story of Catherine, Heathcliff, and the remainder of the Earnshaw and Linton families is told through a narrator finding out information from another narrator. To break that down, Lockwood is learning about the characters and their stories through Nelly, their former servant, and he is attempting to tell the story that he heard from a first-hand witness. So, basically, he is the secondary source, telling the story with some things lost in time – whether that’s Nelly’s fault for over-embellishing or his own for misinterpreting the complexity of the events.
Emily’s sister Charlotte, however, took a different approach of story-telling. In Jane Eyre, an older Jane is recounting her life. Although a fictional character, Jane’s story is being told in the form of a memoir within a story. Wuthering Heights adopts a similar style of a “story being told within a story” with the complexity of the narrators. In Wuthering Heights, I would definitely argue that Lockwood and Nelly are unreliable narrators, because they are both flawed in their story-telling, as mentioned above. Though many people wouldn’t consider Jane to be an unreliable narrator, I would argue the opposite, since her story is not being told in the present tense and as an older version of herself, her reflection and perspective of the events that happened may be more skewed than if they were told in the present tense.
Both stories are being recounted from past events, which makes for unreliable narrators, one is being told from a first-hand account, the other is being told from a second-hand account. For me, making the connections between these two novels stylistically enabled me to think about narration impacted the story-telling of each one, and whether or not having non-conventional styles affected the how I perceived the events of each story. Though different texts, the connection between the two styles of narration that the two Brontes used do have one main thing in common: they’re both stories-within-stories and frankly, can be quite complex.