Follow TV Tropes


Headscratchers / Wuthering Heights

Go To

Why is Nelly repeatedly referred to as "Mrs. Dean?" There is no indication anywhere that she was ever married, is there?
  • Of course there is. That people call her Mrs Dean.
    • But her story to Lockwood begins at a point when she was a child (she couldn't be much older than the young Hindley, anyway). She's obviously unmarried when Heathcliff is first brought to the Heights, and nowhere in the account that spans decades thereafter does she ever mention being married and widowed. There is never any Mr. Dean in the picture.
      • She's telling Mr. Lockwood the story of Wuthering Heights and the relationships between Heathcliff and everyone else - presumably her marriage doesn't have a great impact on this narrative, hence why she doesn't bring it up.
      • Or maybe her husband was abusive, and like Isabella, she lives apart from him. Hence she doesn't talk about it. Wild Mass Guessing, of course.
  • That, and "Mrs" was fairly often used for women of a certain age or, implicitly, experience.
    • Well, if that's what Emily Bronte meant, go, Nelly!
      • No, not that sort of experience. (Well, that too, just not always.) While unmarried females mostly remained Misses, senior servants would be addressed as Mrs., even though, by necessity, they would remain single. By the time Little Cathy is old enough to notice, Nelly is the housekeeper of the Grange. Housekeepers were bosses of large numbers of staff, often including some men if there was no butler or steward (and there doesn't seem to be.) They were always called Mrs. out of deference to their senior position in that mini-society. (They also usually weren't young, although Nelly comes to that job early, thanks to her connection with Catherine.) 'Professed' (i.e. trained) cooks were also called Mrs., as they had a highly skilled job.
  • Indirect evidence: If Nelly was Hareton's wetnurse, she'd probably been pregnant at some point to have been able to lactate. So if we don't hear about either a husband or any surviving children, it could just be she doesn't tell Lockwood about her own family.
    • Given the rest of the cast's frequent encounters with high-mortality diseases, it could just be the rest of her family's dead. I guess that also counts as Fridge Horror.
  • Women in the 18th century, where the book is set, who were above a certain age, were called Mrs. It was the respectable thing to do. Refer to Pamela by Samuel Richardson, where the heroine, a 15-year-old serving girl is called Mrs Pamela by the other servants. Only in the late 18th or 19th century did older spinsters become a Miss.
    • Furthermore, housekeepers in Victorian times were always, always called "Mrs", whether married or not. Source:
    • Further example of the above, in Downtown Abbey Mrs. Hughes the housekeeper is not married, but is called Mrs as a sign of respect from the household. When she does get married to the butler, she keeps her maiden name to avoid confusion with her husband.

How is Joseph still alive by the end of the novel? He seems to have been a servant much longer than everyone else and just gets increasingly cantankerous and crotchety as the 40 or so years of the novel pass and everyone else dies. Does his sheer hatred for everyone around him just keep him going?
  • Probably. That's how it worked for my great-grandmother.
  • Maybe the servants tend to live longer. They might have healthier lifestyles or be less inbred, due to less cousin marryin'. Nelly and Zillah are alive too. Nelly says her mother, Hindley's nurse, lived to be 80, which is a plausible age for Joseph by the end of the book, so a long life apparently isn't unheard of. Meanwhile, nearly every rich character dies an early death.
    • Also remember that humans of all time periods have the possiblity to live to very high ages. It is just the chance that varies with each time period and location of people actually living to that age that changes. So yes, an 80 year old Josef is very much within the realm of possibility.
    • Advertisement:
    • It's also worth noting that one of the main reasons people seem to keep dying before Joseph is because most of them either would very much like to kill some of the others, are trying to kill themselves or are otherwise living lifestyles which aren't particularly conducive towards living a long and happy life. Joseph's old and cranky, but he mainly keeps his head down during all the craziness, which probably accounts for why he's able to live much longer.
    • Joseph is also heavily tied into the gothicness of the novel (the seventy-times-seven dream and his frequent speeches about different characters going to hell set the tone of much of the story). Him never seeming to die or - from what we know - get older could just be another part of the general feeling that there's something wrong. While the novel ends happily, this symbolism of the idea of eternal damnation still exists; he is one of the only true constants of the entire story.
  • It's often said that the good die young. Apparently, God isn't all that keen for Joseph to join him. Heathcliff states in the 2009 version, "Perhaps God is keeping you on Earth because he would find your company so irksome in Heaven."

What's up with Lockwood's dream about Reverend Jabes Branderham, and the Seventy Times Seven?
  • Is that related to the plot at all, or am I missing out on some obtuse religious symbolism?
  • We had a long discussion about this in a lecture a while back. On the one hand, you can say it just sets up what a hostile atmosphere full of aggressive, slightly batty people this story occurs in. On another, there's a lot of psychoanalytical meanings you can read into the sequence (which also apply very closely to Cathy (I)'s character arc), like Lockewood and Joseph entering the "church" (womb of the mother) wielding "clubs", followed by the crowd beating him to death (the shame of living out his incest fantasy, like Oedipus blinding himself). Another reading is that it foreshadows the destructive passions that ruin most of the characters, or the vast amount of cimes committed by Heathcliff against the others. There's probably a lot more there that I'm missing.
    • As for the religious part, the Seventy Times Seven refers to a comment made by Jesus in the Gospel of Mark. When asked how many times someone should endure being sinned agianst by someone, even as much as seven times seven sins (the number seven represents completeness or perfection in the Bible, so the asker is basically suggesting some improbably huge number), Jesus replies that they should endure seventy times seven sins done against them (an absurdly huge number, so you should pretty much never stop forgiving people no matter how far they go (back to Heathcliff's need for revenge, maybe?)).
    • Seems to me the sermon in the dream echoes Joseph's hypocrisy. While Jesus' original statement about seventy times seven was on forgiveness, the sermon in the dream is the opposite, the dream preacher dwelling on sin and taking delight in punishing sinners. Likewise Joseph fancies himself a holier Christian than those around him, but instead seethes hate and is far from Christ-like.

Edgar, man. WHAT are you doing? He clearly loved his daughter and was the best parent in the book by a long shot, but it seems like Cathy had basically no human contact except for him and the servants until she was sixteen. What was his plan? He knew she would be left with nothing unless she got married, so how was she supposed to find a husband when she literally didn't know anyone her own age? Why not take her on a holiday or two, strike up some acquaintances in a neighboring town, send her to finishing school? He was so determined to prevent her from falling in love with Linton, but when you think about it, he left her with no other options.
  • Maybe that’s the whole point. His misguided efforts to protect his daughter from Heathcliff lead her directly into Heathcliff’s trap instead.

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: