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Timelines in Emily Brontë’s «Wuthering Heights»

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Michael Weber

The temporal structure of Wuthering Heights has long been regarded as opaque or even flawed. This is explained by the fact that the years 1778, 1801 and 1802do not entirely cohere with the numerous relative time references in the novel if, as scholarship contends, the years 1801 and 1802 refer to Ellen Dean’s narration of the story. By means of mathematically precise calculations and a grammatical analysis of the text, this critical new approach argues that the time frame of Wuthering Heights is sound if the years 1801 and 1802 date the writing of Mr. Lockwood’s diary. The crucial differentiation between the recording of Mr. Lockwood’s diary and the narration of Ellen Dean’s story leads to a deeper understanding of the intentions of the two narrators and the behaviour of the protagonists.

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III. The Chronologies

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The Definitive Chronology

This chronology is the result of amalgamating all temporally relevant data in Mr. Lockwood’s report and Ellen Dean’s story. It also contains an evidence-based meta-analysis of the literature on the chronology of Wuthering Heights. Until now, only certain selected and methodologically unverified data have been used to construct the chronological order, inevitably leading to deficiencies and contradictions. This definitive chronology brings to an end the discussion of the chronology of Wuthering Heights initiated by Sanger’s 1926 publication and resolves all the chronological paradoxes.

The figures in brackets refer to the chapters of the novel in which the events are mentioned. To provide a better overview, only the most important events are cited. The chronology should serve as a kind of what happens when, just as the chronological and genealogical analyses of the biographies of the characters which follow in Chapters IV and VI constitute a literary who’s who. In the person-specific sections of the biographical analyses, the dating of events can be found, if not given here.

July 1771

Heathcliff is brought to Wuthering Heights (4).

1772

Mrs. Earnshaw dies; Hindley Earnshaw is sent off to college (5).

October 1775

Mr. Earnshaw dies; Hindley Earnshaw returns (5, 6).

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