This character is the unlucky child, born of Isabella (Edgar’s sister) and Heathcliff, a very unlikely match. Isabella runs away from Wuthering Heights to care for her sickly son far away from his father (and the overall bad environment at the Heights – Hindley being still alive at this stage), no matter how hard she tries to return to her childhood home, her brother never allowed it. After her death, Edgar decides to care for his nephew “A pale, delicate, effeminate boy, who might have been taken for my master’s younger brother… but there was a peevishness in his aspect that Edgar Linton never had.” in this chapter (five of the second volume) we see Linton as a wane character always about to disappear and this will be true for the rest of his short life. On hearing of his son arrival, Heathcliff decides that the child must go back to Wuthering Heights, leaving Edgar, Catherine and Nelly heartbroken.
At this stage, the reader still feels sympathetic towards Linton despite his peevish weakness, making his refusal to let go of Nelly when the time comes for him to go back to his father one of the most touching scenes of the novel.
In his new home, he is treated just well enough to survive until he can carry out his father’s plan to marry his cousin and thus become the irrefutable heir of Thrushcross Grange (Wuthering Heights already belonging to Heathcliff at this stage).
Catherine and Linton start meeting secretly and later with her father’s approval (for Linton’s sake) we can see that he is bullied into these meetings when he does not feel up to it. His father forces him to appear healthy but weak in order to attract Catherine’s attention and compassion. We see this clearly in one of the last visits when Catherine perceives that her visits were more of a punishment than a gratification and proposes to leave “That proposal … roused him from his lethargy, and threw him into a strange state of agitation. He glanced fearfully towards the Heights, begging she would remain another half-hour at least.”
Linton and Isabella are both odd characters in the sense that despite their weakness (physical and emotional) they seem to enjoy inflicting pain on others. Isabella knew Heathcliff’s character before she eloped with him. Heathcliff, later in the novel will recollect how she enjoyed seeing him strangling her little dog. Her son, like her enjoys it when Catherine is imprisoned and forced to marry him. When Nelly asks him whether he was happy to see her beaten by Heathcliff, his answer is “I was glad at first – she deserved punishing for pushing me”.
Linton’s character is in no way able to attract our sympathy, unlike Hareton whose character I will also be discussed.