Nelly Dean

Nelly Dean is the housekeeper and storyteller in Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. Nelly Dean is also the title of a more recent novel (2015) by Alison Case. This story follows the life of Nelly, not retelling Bronte’s story, but filling in the cracks with another story just as powerful. Here is an excerpt:

It came to me, then, that the trapped bird was a good figure for any of the three of them: Hindley’s rage, Heathcliff’s desperate love, Cathy’s hunger for freedom – whatever drove them, it seemed to drive them each past sense and reason… I thought to myself, ‘I am not like them,’ and it was like a revelation to me… I did not have it in me to fly wildly at a window again, and yet again, and yet again. And no doubt that was a good thing. But for all my pride in my own good sense, I could not help being sad at the thought.

Sometimes I believe I am too much of a sensible hen, like Nelly. I agree that it is a sad thing to not have the kind of passion that embodies some people. And yet, none of us are completely tame. Who but God can know our inmost thoughts, which race wild inside us, getting caught at the filters of speech and actions? I might be a sensible hen, but I have a streak of hawk, too.


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