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Timelines in Emily Brontë’s «Wuthering Heights»


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.

Preliminary Notes

I. Questions and Contradictions

II. The Temporal Structure of the Novel

The Report and the Story – Formal and Functional Narrative Aspects

Dating Methodology

The Time Scheme of Mr.Lockwood’s Report

Mr.Lockwood the diarist

Mr.Lockwood the clairvoyant

Mr.Lockwood the patient

Mr.Lockwood the contemporary witness

Mr.Lockwood the tourist

The Time Scheme of Ellen Dean’s Story

Time references based on textual content (internal evidence)

Time references based on numerical data (external evidence)

Time references based on misleading ages

The misleading ages – background and consequences

The Time Scheme of Wuthering Heights

The Report and the Story – Temporal and Chronological Aspects

III. The Chronologies

The Definitive Chronology

The Traditional Chronologies

Sanger’s chronology (1926)

Clay’s commentary on the chronology (1952)

Goodridge’s time structure (1964)

Power’s commentary (1972)

Daley’s almanacs (1974)

Daley’s revision of Sanger’s chronology (1995 and 2003)

IV. A Practical Chronology

Mr.Earnshaw (c.1712–1775)

Mrs.Earnshaw (?–1772)

Heathcliff Earnshaw (?)

Ellen (Nell, Nelly) Dean (1754–)

Hindley Earnshaw (1756–1783)

Frances Earnshaw (c.1757–1778)

Edgar Linton (1761–1800)

Mr.Heathcliff (probably 1763–April 1801)

Isabella Linton (1764–July 1796)

Catherine (Cathy) Earnshaw (1765–20/3/1783)

Hareton Earnshaw (June 1778–)

Mr.Lockwood (probably 1778–)

Catherine (Cathy) Linton (20/3/1783–)

Linton Heathcliff (1783–1801)

V. The Ghost

VI. The Genealogies of the Earnshaw and Linton Families

The Critical Genealogy

The Alternative Genealogies

The Traditional Genealogies


VII. The Chronology as Practical Narratology

Playing with Two Eyewitnesses

Playing with the Temporal Structure

Playing with Time

VIII. Answers and Solutions