Male heirs. Heathcliff has played the board masterfully: Hindley beat him as a child and Heathcliff indebted him, stole his son, broke him.
Edgar and Isabella made fun of the dirty, swearing servant boy; Edgar as adult thought Heathcliff still servant in station; Edgar lands a lucky punch to his throat; Heathcliff takes the sister, makes an heir, and crushes that family, and walks in as master: if your ethic is that revenge is justified, he is your man.
As students of history and social equality—what was that? What did you say, Boy?—you know that women can’t own property. Catherine is trapped. Nell, a servant, is no social equal: she speaks her mind and is tolerated—but the superior’s shut-up is backed by termination of at-pleasure employment. No labor board or lawyer to complain to.
A woman’s protest—regardless of station—could be met with abuse. No police, no CPS. Heathcliff established his level of physical control, and we understand that Linton, not strong enough physically, will work his as does the rat.
Heathcliff relays to Nell his bribery of the sexton to show his Cathy’s corpse, and to secure a spot next to her when his time comes. Then he tells of, some eighteen years ago, digging to her grave in a snowfall to die next to her. But then her ghost “appears”—and keeps appearing.
“Now since I’ve seen her, I’m pacified – a little. It was a strange way of killing, not by inches, but by fractions of a hair-breadths, to beguile me with the spectre of a hope, through eighteen years!” (230)
Nerves of catgut.
We suppose that Heathcliff would have killed himself at her death, but the hope that she would come back more substantially stops him, and he reckons that she has killed him by teasing her spectral presence.
Have you ever had a ghost lover? Let me tell you…