In Charlotte Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, Nelly Dean is the housekeeper and narrator of the story. Throughout the passage from Chapter 9 of the book, the reader is given description of several interactions which characterize Nelly and demonstrate her personality and motivation through first person narrative. Nelly’s relationship with her employer is revealing. At the very beginning of the passage we are startled to read that Nelly is stuffing the lord of the manor’s son in a cupboard.
It does not take long to realize, however, that Nelly cares for Hareton. She is concerned for the child’s welfare and uncertain in what mood his father might arrive home. Her sense of humor quickly becomes apparent during the dialogue as she uses verbal irony in speaking with Mr. Hindley; to the point that he presses a knife against her teeth. There is obviously a great deal of trust between the two. The fact that she begs him not to take a drink, knowing that he is trying to drown his sorrows in alcohol, also shows her concern for her employer.
Nelly certainly takes her job of caring for her young charge seriously. She feels protective toward Hareton and tries to ensure nothing his father does will harm him. When Hareton falls into Heathcliff’s arms, she is quite relieved to find out the boy is all right and tells her employer in no uncertain terms what she thinks of his foolishness standing next to the stair rail with his son. We also learn that Nelly is not afraid to speak her mind as she warns Mr. Hindley: “You shall not meddle with him! ”
Nelly feels she is in charge of more than just the house and the lord of the manor. She tries to signal to Heathcliff, the antagonist of the story, that he should not approach Mr. Hindley. She reminds her employer that he has a lovely family who is not the least fond of him. Nelly cares for everyone at the estate, which causes her character conflict of loyalty. Nelly Dean is obviously a competent and compassionate woman with a good sense of humor and apt concern for the tortured souls who live at Wuthering Heights.