Lockwood (Wuthering Heights)

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Mr. Lockwood is one of two narrators in Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights, the other being Nelly Dean. He is an effete English gentleman who arrives on the Yorkshire moors for a retreat from city life, and spends most of his recorded time there listening to Nelly's biography of Heathcliff,[1] the landlord in whose affairs he has taken a peculiar interest:

Mr. Heathcliff forms a singular contrast to his abode and style of living. He is a dark-skinned gypsy in aspect, in dress and manners a gentleman, that is, as much a gentleman as many a country squire: rather slovenly, perhaps, yet not looking amiss with his negligence, because he has an erect and handsome figure — and rather morose. Possibly, some people might suspect him of a degree of under-bred pride; I have a sympathetic chord within that tells me it is nothing of the sort: I know, by instinct, his reserve springs from an aversion to showy displays of feeling — to manifestations of mutual kindliness. He'll love and hate, equally under cover, and esteem it a species of impertinence to be loved or hated again — No, I'm running on too fast — I bestow my own attributes over-liberally on him.[2]

Lockwood is a poor judge of character. The above impressions, garnered from his first encounter with Heathcliff, are quickly discarded during the second, when his landlord's surly disposition fully reveals itself. The two are in fact diametrical opposites — Heathcliff a moody, vindictive Byronic hero; Lockwood a paragon of affected posh civility. Whereas we do not know Lockwood's first name, Heathcliff is without a last, a ruse likely employed to emphasise their differences.

Lockwood arrives at Thrushcross Grange, the estate that he rents from Heathcliff, on the back of a failed amour the previous summer. From his keenness to identify with his landlord's reticence, together with his eagerness to befriend him, we may infer that the reaction of society to his behaviour wounded his highly developed sense of self-esteem and caused him to sulkily withdraw from society for a period, leaving him in dire need of a sympathetic ally. This may explain in part why he is later so willing to while away the hours in Nelly's company. In truth the callow and impulsive nature of Mr. Lockwood leads him to fancy himself something of a misanthrope, while at heart he retains his taste for social intercourse, conversation and gossip.

The Grange is the perfect home for Lockwood; indeed, he is uncannily akin to its previous owners, the Linton family, who were full of decadent custom and almost wholly lacking in fibre. The Grange is a happy but hollow place, in stark contrast to the impassioned feuding of Wuthering Heights, where Lockwood and the Lintons are never comfortable. Lockwood's own unease is especially evident when, during his ill-fated second visit, he is forced to stay the night at the Heights because of the adverse weather outside. After being ushered by a servant into a small room, and instructed not to let Heathcliff know that he is in it, Lockwood picks up a book in which he finds scrawled the names "Catherine Earnshaw" and "Catherine Linton" repeatedly. Shortly afterwards he has either a spectral visitation or a nightmare, in which a ghostly female tries to force her way in through his window, clutching at his arm as she does so. Lockwood relates,

The intense horror of nightmare came over me: I tried to draw back my arm, but the hand clung to it, and a most melancholy voice sobbed,

"Let me in — let me in!"

"Who are you?" I asked, struggling, meanwhile, to disengage myself.

"Catherine Linton," it replied, shiveringly (why did I think of LINTON? I had read EARNSHAW twenty times for Linton). "I'm come home: I'd lost my way on the moor!"

As it spoke, I discerned, obscurely, a child's face looking through the window.[3]

This is the first of many supernatural occurrences in the novel, although Lockwood, despite being unable to recollect the incident, writes it off as a bad dream. This, again, is in polar opposition to Heathcliff: after entering the room to see what all the to-do is about, finding only a stricken Lockwood in his bed and being informed of the event, the master of Wuthering Heights bids his guest go. But Lockwood looks on disobediently as Heathcliff

got on to the bed, and wrenched open the lattice, bursting, as he pulled at it, into an uncontrollable passion of tears.

"Come in! come in!" he sobbed. "Cathy, do come. Oh, do — once more! Oh! my heart's darling! hear me this time, Catherine, at last!"

The spectre showed a spectre's ordinary caprice: it gave no sign of being; but the snow and wind whirled wildly through, even reaching my station, and blowing out the light.[4]

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Of Heathcliff's single-name status we may be sure: the cognomen, given him by his foster father Mr. Earnshaw, serves conveniently as both his forename and his surname.
  2. ^ Brontë 1998, p. 3. We may assume from this passage's final sentence that Lockwood himself has "an aversion to showy displays of feeling — to manifestations of mutual kindliness", and that "his reserve springs from" this. He also, presumably, will "love and hate, equally under cover, and esteem it a species of impertinence to be loved or hated again".
  3. ^ Brontë 1998, p. 20.
  4. ^ Brontë 1998, p. 24.