Housekeeper to the Earnshaws and Lintons. The novel is from her point of view; we see every character (aside from Lockwood) through her eyes. She grows up with Hindley, Catherine, and Heathcliff and works at both Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange. Nelly is confidante to many, including both Catherines, Isabella, and even Heathcliff. She cares for Hareton when he is an infant and is a mother-figure to the younger Cathy. Though a servant, she is educated and articulate. Frequently, she does more than observe; she becomes very involved in her employers' lives. Some might call her meddlesome, but most of the characters are so comfortable with her that they have intimate conversations in front of her.
The Wuthering Heights quotes below are all either spoken by Ellen "Nelly" Dean or refer to Ellen "Nelly" Dean. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one: Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of Wuthering Heights published in 2009.).
Chapter 8 Quotes
Doubtless Catherine marked the difference between her friends, as one came in and the other went out. The contrast resembled what you see in exchanging a bleak, hilly, coal country for a beautiful fertile valley; and his voice and greeting were as opposite as his aspect.
Chapter 9 Quotes
Nelly, I see now, you think me a selfish wretch; but did it never strike you that if Heathcliff and I married we should be beggars? whereas, if I marry Linton, I can aid Heathcliff to rise, and place him out of my brother's power?
Page Number and Citation:
My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods; time will change it, I'm well aware, as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath—a source of little visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I am Heathcliff!
Chapter 27 Quotes
Catherine's face was just like the landscape—shadows and sunshine flitting over it in rapid succession; but the shadows rested longer, and the sunshine was more transient.
The timeline below shows where the character Ellen "Nelly" Dean appears in Wuthering Heights. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
...Hindley mistreated Heathcliff, and after dinner she slips away from the others to visit Heathcliff. Nelly also takes pity on Heathcliff and brings him down to the kitchen for some food.... (full context)
Three years later, Heathcliff has still not returned, and Edgar and Catherine get married. Nelly leaves Hareton with Hindley and Joseph at Wuthering Heights and moves to Thrushcross Grange. (full context)
...her sister-in-law warns her that Heathcliff is a fiend whom she should stay away from. Nelly seconds this advice, and adds that there are rumors that Heathcliff is lending Hindley money... (full context)
...up to leave, but Catherine begs him to stay and he does. As Edgar approaches, Nelly screams. Catherine collapses and Heathcliff catches her. Edgar rushes into the room. Heathcliff puts Catherine's... (full context)
...gives birth to a daughter, Cathy, two months prematurely. Catherine dies two hours later. When Nelly brings Heathcliff the news, he seems somehow to already know. He curses Catherine for the... (full context)
...about Linton's departure. As time passes, though she asks about Linton less and less. Meanwhile, Nelly keeps tabs on Linton by questioning the Wuthering Heights housekeeper, and learns that Linton remains... (full context)
One day, three years after Linton goes to Wuthering Heights, the sixteen-year-old Catherine and Nelly go bird-hunting on the moors. Cathy runs ahead of Nelly, and when Nelly catches up... (full context)
...that he does have a son whom Catherine has met before and invites Cathy and Nelly to come back to Wuthering Heights with him. Nelly suspects Heathcliff's is plotting something, but... (full context)
...but Cathy doesn't listen and she and Linton begin writing secret letters to each other. Nelly eventually finds Linton's letters and, over Cathy's objections, destroys them. Cathy ends the correspondence with... (full context)