No Son of Mine

As I was reading these chapters of Wuthering Heights, I could not help but focus somewhat on the relationship between Heathcliff and his son, Linton. The father and son first meet when Linton is 12 years old, as he has spent his life up to that point being raised by his mother, Isabella, in London. When the young boy comes to Thrushcross Grange, he is of sickly temperament, and it is clear his upbringing has predisposed him to incessant whining. For these reasons, Heathcliff takes an instant disliking toward his son. He cannot even stand to be in the same room as him for very long, as Nelly comes to find out from the housekeeper of Wuthering Heights: ” Mr. Heathcliff seemed to dislike him ever longer and worse, though he took some trouble to conceal it: he had an antipathy to the sound of his voice, and could not do at all with his sitting in the same room with him many minutes together” (Chapter 21). Unsurprisingly, Linton takes after his mother much more than he does his father. Heathcliff despises everything about his son that he once hated in his wife and her brother: their refinement, fragility, and spoiled entitlement. Whereas Heathcliff grew up treated as a ward, and later more like a servant or a slave, Edgar, Isabella, and now Linton, all enjoyed comfortable and pampered childhoods. I believe that this leads to Heathcliff having much difficulty in accepting him as his son, since he embodies so much of what he resents.

While thinking about this relationship, I was reminded of the poem “The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim’s Point,” by George Eliot. The poem is told from the point of view of an enslaved African woman who is running away from her master. A master with whom she shares an infant son. There is a line where she says ” My own, own child! I could not bear to look in his face, it was so white.” Like Linton to Heathcliff, the woman’s child embodies what she hates most: her master. For this reason, she cannot stand to look at him, and struggles with the idea that he is even her child in the first place. Unlike Heathcliff, however, she also takes pity on the child, as she knows that he will be brought up into slavery. Because of this, she ends up killing him to spare him from this fate.

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