Wuthering Heights: Heathcliff and His Son Linton

There is a distinct and curious difference between the violent, savage, and built Heathcliff and the effeminate, coddled, and slight Linton. It’s almost comical that a man described as being “an unclaimed creature, without refinement—without cultivation; an arid wilderness of furze and whinstone” should bear a son so timid (Bronte 90). I think this difference raises questions both about the nature of human beings and the inherent qualities of the natural world. As the above quote demonstrates, Heathcliff is described as uncultivated. There is a natural quality about him (in the sense that he his both un-conditioned by society and of or one with nature). During his harsh upbringing as a child, he found solace in the natural world. So much so that he seems to live not in Wuthering Heights, but off the land. Because of this, he has been conditioned to react to occurrences in human society in an animalistic manner. For example, after hearing the news of Catharine’s death, “He dashed his head against the knotted trunk; and, lifting up his eyes, howled, not like a man but like a savage beast getting goaded to death with knives and spears” (Bronte 148).

His son, on the other hand, is described as “A pale, delicate, effeminate boy, who might have been taken for my master’s [Edgar] younger brother, so strong was the resemblance, but there was a sickly peevishness in his aspect that Edgar Linton never had” (Bronte 177). This prompts the question of how the two could be so different. One would think that surely some of Heathcliff’s rugged and animalistic nature should be passed down to his son. I think the fact that it doesn’t tells a great deal about how Heathcliff got the way he his. There is nothing essential about his baseness. His brutishness was borne from abuse and neglect. Thus, Bronte seems to be drawing a parallel between a neglectful upbringing and the uncaring natural world.

Heathcliff recognizes the reasons for the differences between he and his son. “Haven’t they raised it on snails and sour milk, Nelly?” he asks upon seeing Linton’s frail and frightened face, “Thou art thy mother’s child, entirely! Where is my share in thee, puling chicken?” (Bronte 183). Heathcliff knows that the only way for his son to be like him would to have been raised in the coldness of the ambivalent natural world. Instead, in his eyes, he has been weakened by a coddled and protected youth.This line of thinking would conclude that there is nothing essential about human beings–their environment determines their nature. And I think Heathcliff would say the most suitable environment is the harsh natural world.

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