The happenings in the given excerpt from Wuthering Heights, written by Emily Brontë, bring about an important turn in the action of the novel.
It first describes a scene in Catherine Linton`s room at Thrushcross Grange. After a quarrel between Heathcliff, Edgar Linton and Catherine, Catherine drives herself extremely mad to the point where she becomes mentally and physically ill. Nelly Dean is the narrator of the passage, she both observes and is involved in the action herself. As she witnesses how helpless Edgar Linton is – uncertain of what to think or do for his wife, Nelly calls the doctor in the village.
As Nelly passes the garden to reach the road, she makes a terrifying discovery: Isabella Linton`s springer Fanny is hung on a bridle hook, almost “at its last gasp” (Brontë 1847: 144). Nelly releases Fanny, wondering who was capable of committing such a crime, and as she sets off to reach the doctor, she hears horses galloping in the distance.
Both the dog itself and the action of its hanging have a symbolic meaning. That the dog is a symbol reflecting Isabella Linton and that Fanny`s hanging represents Heathcliff`s diabolical hate and brutality, shall be focused on in my essay through having a closer look at the characters of Isabella Linton and Heathcliff and by interpreting the given excerpt. I will start by analysing the role of Nelly Dean before moving on to symbolism and the function the excerpt has in the frame of the whole story.
Nelly Dean leads the reader through the whole passage. She carefully and meticulously observes and reports. Nelly doesn`t interpret the situation but offers the reader plenty of hints that complete his image of Nelly while also subtly steering the reader towards where she intents. Having grown up with Catherine, she knows her fairly well and has learned to make decisions on her own when her mistress` approval can`t be given. As Nelly is closely involved with her master and mistress` lives, she sometimes even dares to take the side of one or the other in order to spare someone`s feelings. She doesn`t tell Edgar right away that Isabella has disappeared because she doesn`t want to “rouse the family” (Brontë 1847: 147) and Edgar has “no heart to spare for a second grief” (ibid.). Nelly is a caring and selfless person who leaves the house in the middle of the night, all on her own, to “seek medical aid on [her] own responsibility” (Brontë 1847: 144). Considering her meticulous observation of the people and things surrounding her, one can draw the conclusion that Nelly is a clever person with a great knowledge of human nature, although she needs time to develop her own sense of justice.