Ellen, or Nelly as she is called most of the time, is much more in line with the narrator I expected. It definitely threw me for a loop when the book started with a male narrator. I suppose I just assumed that a female Victorian author would have a woman narrator/protagonist. In a sense she does, at least when Nelly is in charge of the narration, but the more I think about the use of Lockwood, the more it strikes me as a move bordering on genius.
Nelly is a housekeeper who, at the time of the narration, is employed at Thrushcross Grange, but she has also worked at Wuthering Heights. In fact, she grew up there. As such, she is in a position of knowledge and can relate that information as it applies to the familial drama surrounding Heathcliff, the Lintons (who once lived in Thrushcross) and the Earnshaws (who lived on the Heights). Lockwood, who knows none of this, acts as a reader-surrogate, begging Nelly to tell the story. He serves as a frame into which Bronte can insert the character through which she clearly wants to speak. The other reason for Lockwood's existence, I think, is that Bronte published the book under the male pen name Ellis Bell. Given what I know of Victorian England, I can only imagine the scandal created had a "male" author written a book with a female narrator. Since she had to adopt a male name to ease publication, it seems fitting (if ironic) that Bronte would have to adopt a male narrator to ease into the story she wanted to tell.
In the main, the book is about Heathcliff. This singularly named child is found on the streets of Liverpool by old Mr. Earnshaw. Right from the off, he is a dark character: "a dirty, ragged, black-haired child." In fact, he might be the original Goth, dressing in black and seeming "a sullen, patient child; hardened, perhaps, to ill-treatment." Earnshaw loves the boy regardless and even values him over his own children, which, of course, causes trouble. The biggest squalls so far, however, are not stirred up by Earnshaw loving Heathcliff, but by Heathcliff loving Catherine, his adoptive sister.