Who Is Mr. Lockwood?
In Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights, Mr. Lockwood hears an intricate and interesting tale. Lockwood, like the reader, stands outside the story and tries to comprehend the strange story he hears. Let's take a closer look at his character.
Mr. Lockwood is a wealthy gentleman who comes to spend a year in the country at Thrushcross Grange. Heathcliff, as the owner of Thrushcross Grange, is Lockwood's landlord. Lockwood meets Heathcliff at Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff's home atop the English moors. Lockwood is struck at once by the beauty and isolation of the area. ''This is certainly a beautiful country! In all England, I do not believe that I could have fixed on a situation so completely removed from the stir of society,'' Lockwood says.
Two Visits to Wuthering Heights
Lockwood's first visit to Wuthering Heights reveals an important clue about his character. Lockwood completely misjudges Heathcliff. When he first meets his landlord, Lockwood says, ''A capital fellow! He little imagined how my heart warmed towards him when I beheld his black eyes withdraw so suspiciously under their brows, as I rode up, and when his fingers sheltered themselves, with a jealous resolution, still further in his waistcoat, as I announced my name.'' All the clues are there: Lockwood's own description contains clues about Heathcliff's dark and guarded nature, yet Lockwood takes an instant liking to Heathcliff.
Not only is Lockwood depicted as a poor judge of the character of others, but he is also not very self-aware. Lockwood views himself as desirous of solitude, describing his new accommodations as ''A perfect misanthropist's heaven: and Mr. Heathcliff and I are such a suitable pair to divide the desolation between us.'' This statement later proves to be false as Lockwood is shown virtually clinging to Nelly Dean to alleviate his isolation.
On his second visit to Wuthering Heights, Lockwood gets a better sense of its strange inhabitants. Stranded at Heathcliff's home during a snowstorm, Lockwood finds his host anything but hospitable. Zillah, one of Heathcliff's servants, escorts Lockwood to a bedroom. In the bedroom, Lockwood first encounters the name of Catherine as he peruses her books. Later in the night, he experiences a nightmare or a ghostly vision, which elicits an odd response from Heathcliff. Heathcliff begs the ghost to enter Lockwood's bedroom—a plea that Lockwood does not understand at all. The next day, Heathcliff agrees to guide Lockwood back to the Grange, and Lockwood is more than happy to leave Wuthering Heights at last.
After the hair-raising night spent at Wuthering Heights, Lockwood becomes curious about Heathcliff and the other inhabitants of the house. The housekeeper Nelly Dean has been in the area 18 years, so when he returns to the Grange he decides to ask her about Heathcliff and the curious behavior of the residents of Wuthering Heights. ''Well, Mrs. Dean, it will be a charitable deed to tell me something of my neighbours: I feel I shall not rest if I go to bed; so be good enough to sit and chat an hour.''
Lockwood thus sets up the frame story or story within a story when he presses Nelly to talk about Heathcliff. Nelly's story becomes the second narrative in the novel, and she tells the majority of Heathcliff's story. Lockwood becomes the audience for Nelly's story just as the reader is the audience for Bronte's novel. Nelly has gleaned some parts of the story from Zillah and Joseph, Heathcliff's servants. Lockwood is the only narrator who does not witness the strange events that have shaped Heathcliff into the man Lockwood meets when he takes up residence at the Grange.
Lockwood becomes ill and looks forward to Nelly's continuing installments of the story as he recuperates at Thrushcross Grange. Nelly Dean's story is complex, and Lockwood asks questions of her that clarify the story for the reader at the same time.
Lockwood Returns to Wuthering Heights
The next year, as he is traveling to a friend's house, Lockwood finds himself again near Wuthering Heights. Lockwood sees great changes at the house. ''I had neither to climb the gate nor to knock—it yielded to my hand. That is an improvement, I thought. And I noticed another, by the aid of my nostrils; a fragrance of stocks and wallflowers wafted on the air from amongst the homely fruit- trees.''
The cheery scene that greets Lockwood at Wuthering Heights stands in stark contrast to the house he has known before. Lockwood learns that Cathy and Hareton, the last remaining generation of the Linton and Earnshaw families, have fallen in love, and the oppressive atmosphere at Wuthering Heights has lifted, perhaps in part because Heathcliff has died.
In Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights, Mr. Lockwood is a wealthy gentleman who comes to spend a year in the country at Thrushcross Grange. He's not a very good judge of character, nor is he very self-aware. He little imagines the tragic and unusual people he will encounter at his new home.
Lockwood meets Heathcliff, owner of both the Grange and Wuthering Heights and Heathcliff's strange behavior piques his interest. Lockwood returns to the Grange, where he presses his housekeeper, Nelly Dean, to tell him about the residents of Wuthering Heights.
Lockwood's position as the audience sets up the novel's frame story (a story within a story), and Nelly (along with Joseph and Zillah) tell the unusual tale that keeps Lockwood entertained during his long winter on the English moors.
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Mr. Lockwood: Further Exploration
This lesson introduced you to the character of Mr. Lockwood from Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights. Take a look at the following activities to improve your understanding of this unusual character.
If you were going to describe Mr. Lockwood, what words might you use? How would you describe him as a character? Write a character study that goes into detail about Mr. Lockwood, including his fears, motivations, desires, and personality. Make sure that you discuss how Mr. Lockwood changes over the course of the novel, especially in the way that his perception of Wuthering Heights shifts over time.
Compare and Contrast
Think about other characters that you have read about who remind you of Mr. Lockwood. One thing you might want to consider is that Mr. Lockwood is something of an unreliable narrator, at least in the way that he perceives Heathcliff. He is also an expository character whose main purpose is to be the conduit through which the audience learns about the story. Write an essay comparing and contrasting Mr. Lockwood and another, similar character in literature.
Examples: Enfield in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson; Robert Walton in Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.
Write Your Own
Now that you have thought about Mr. Lockwood in a lot of detail, write your own short story or missing chapter about him. What kinds of parts of his life are missing from the narrative of Wuthering Heights? You can even insert him into another scene in the novel just to see how he would respond to what happens. Look to Emily Bronte's writing style for inspiration.
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