In Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights, based on chapters 19 through 20, how does Heathcliff plan to use his son Linton?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff vows revenge on both Hindley Earnshaw and Edgar Linton. He seeks revenge against Hindley for treating Heathcliff like a servant and humiliating him before Catherine, and he seeks revenge against Edgar because Catherine married Edgar instead of himself. His plan of revenge revolves around gaining both of the Earnshaw and Linton estates, Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange respectively.

As part of his plan to gain Thrushcross Grange, Heathcliff elopes with with Edgar's sister Isabella. However, Heathcliff treats Isabella badly, so she runs off to the South where she gives birth to their son Linton, who has poor health. Meanwhile, Edgar and Catherine have also had their daughter Cathy, and Catherine has died. Likewise, Isabella dies, and after her death, Heathcliff challenges Edgar for custody over Linton. Heathcliff's intention for using Linton in his revenge plan is to have Linton marry Cathy because Cathy will inherit the Thrushcross Grange estate. If Linton and Cathy marry, Linton will have control over Thrushcross Grange because anything owned by the wife is legally owned by the husband. However, Heathcliff knows that Linton is unlikely to live long enough to make it into his twenties. So, if Linton leaves Cathy a widow, then Heathcliff, as Linton's father, will gain control of Thrushcross Grange.

We particularly see Heathcliff disclose to Nelly, housekeeper of Thrushcross Grange, his plans for using Linton in the following speech found in Chapter 20:

Yes, Nell ... my son is prospective owner of your place, and I should not wish him to die till I was certain of being his successor. Besides, he's mine(it), and I want the triumph of seeing my(it) descendent fairly lord of their estates; my child hiring their children to till their fathers' lands for wages. (Ch. XX)

In calling Linton the "prospective owner of" Thrushcross Grange, Heathcliff is predicting Linton will come to own it through marriage to Cathy. Heathcliff is also predicting Linton will die, leaving Heathcliff to take over as owner of Thrushcross Grange.

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