Zillah in Wuthering Heights: Character Analysis & Quotes

Instructor: Margaret Stone

Margaret has taught both college and high school English and has a master's degree in English.

Zillah is a minor, but intriguing character in Emily Bronte's 'Wuthering Heights.' Zillah narrates part of the story, and her name may serve as a reminder of the unusual relationships at the center of the novel's plot.

Who Is Zillah?

Zillah is one of the housekeepers at Wuthering Heights. Zillah is described as a ''stout housewife'' and ''a narrow-minded, selfish woman.'' This last depiction of her occurs when she refuses to help Cathy Linton at Wuthering Heights. In her defense, however, she is following her employer's instructions.

Though this character plays a relatively minor role in the novel, she is significant for two reasons. First, she narrates a portion of the novel. In addition, Zillah's character may serve as a way to focus readers on the relationship between Catherine, Edgar, and Heathcliff.

Zillah and Mr. Lockwood

Mr. Lockwood's interest in Heathcliff's story comes about after he spends a night at Wuthering Heights. Lockwood, Heathcliff's tenant, is stranded at Wuthering Heights during a snow storm. Heathcliff has been a rather unpleasant host and insists that Lockwood sleep with a servant so Heathcliff won't have to worry about him stealing anything from the house.

Zillah, however, shows Lockwood to a room where he finds books belonging to Catherine Earnshaw. During the night, he experiences either a vivid nightmare or a ghostly vision, and he learns that the inhabitants of Wuthering Heights are a strange crew indeed.

Zillah knowingly leads Lockwood to a room that Heathcliff never allowed anyone to use. When Lockwood asks why, ''She did not know, she answered: she had only lived there a year or two; and they had so many queer goings on, she could not begin to be curious.''

Lockwood believes that Zillah has assigned him to the haunted room because ''she wanted to get another proof that the place was haunted, at my expense.'' Lockwood leaves Wuthering Heights more convinced than ever that something very strange is occurring. When he asks Nelly Dean, his housekeeper, about the curious people at Wuthering Heights, she begins to tell her tale.

Zillah as Narrator

The narrative structure of Wuthering Heights is complex, with several stories within a story. Zillah is one of the narrators, but her story is somewhat restricted because she doesn't see or hear everything.

Most of her reporting is based on gossip, which she relays to Nelly Dean, the novel's primary narrator. ''It's not his tale: they tell that in the village - about your being lost in the marsh,'' Zillah says, reporting gossip from Gimmerton to Nelly. Going to Gimmerton to collect the village gossip is apparently one of Zillah's favorite pastimes, according to Linton Heathcliff. ''Zillah is constantly gadding off to Gimmerton since papa went: it's miserable!''

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