Passage is a conversation between Nelly and Heathcliff about Isabella. The passage begins with Nelly speaking to Heathcliff. She discusses the lifestyle of Isabella past, and suggests that she that he provides her a maid. She also says that Isabella is strongly attached to him, or else she wouldn’t have left behind all those luxuries she had.
Heathcliff replies by saying she left under false belief about him being devoted to her because it seemed like he loved Isabella. The writer shows arrogance in him when he calls her a ‘rational creature’, showing no respect. He then says
‘But, at last she begins to know me: I don’t perceive the silly smiles and grimaces that provoked me at first: and the senseless incapability of discerning that I was in earnest when I gave her my opinion of her infatuation and herself.’
He’s a ‘big bully’. He heartlessly wounds her by mocking at the way she behaved with him before she moved to Thrushcross Range. He sarcastically announces that it she did well to realize that he did not love her, and at one point he thought that it will never be possible for her realize it. He questions her declaration that he succeeded in making her hate him, to Isabella herself. Taunting her by asking , ‘Are you sure you hat me?’ Asking, if left a lone would she not come back to him with a sigh and urging.
He mocks her even more when he says that she would have preferred he was softer on towards her with Nelly, as her feelings a further wounded by the truth being exposed.
There is more arrogance when he says that he doesn’t care as the love was completely one sided, he claims that he is not a fault as he did not lie at all to her.
The beast inside him came out when he started speaking about the hanging her dog when she first came to Thrushcross Range. She begged for him not to do it, even that begging all he could utter is a wish that he had the hanging of every being belonging to her, except one. The one he I think he is referring to is Catherine. But he insists that Isabella was stupid enough to think the one could have been her.
He further continues saying that the brutality exerted by him was admired by Isabella as long as it didn’t hurt her physically.
He claims his innocence by saying, it was Isabella’s fault who was an absurd, slavish, mean-minded brach (Female Hunting Dog (hound)) that dreamt that he had loved her.
He bullies her even more when he instructs Nelly to inform Edgar Linton, Isabella’s brother that he had not met such a miserable person in his life, he didn’t even refer to Isabella as person, he called her a thing. He also says that she disgraces the name of Linton. And he we can see a warning from him to Edgar Linton, when he says that if Edgar was thinking about taking action, there was no use, as Heathcliff was keeping to within the limits of the law.
He says that if she wanted to leave she might. The nuisance of her presence outweighs the satisfaction of tormenting her.
Nelly replies by asking, if he is normal, as his speech was of a madman’s. She indicates that since Heathcliff himself has said that Isabella can go, she would doubtlessly take that option. She then ends by turning to Isabella and asking her if she is under any kind of a spell to still remain there.
This passage shows that Heatcliff is taking revenge on everyone by making them miserable, Isabella is just one example.
I think Heathcliff is convinced that what he is doing is completely right as he is staying within the limits of the law. The passage relates to rest of the theme of Heathcliff taking revenge by making the people around him miserable.
Initially I thought that Nelly was just being sarcastic about providing a maid for Isabella, and that she was on Heathcliffs side, and the fact that Heathcliff was allowed to say all that without being interrupted also contributed to this. But then at the end he response to Heathcliff the question she poses to Isabella if she were having any plans of staying dismisses that idea.
Nelly is here to offer Isabella some help by suggesting some ideas to Heathcliff, but Heathcliff pays no heed to it, he just goes on about how miserable she is. I also feel that, Heathcliff said all this as his torture session is over and that she is free to leave if she wanted to. So it spares him his time and money if he were to hire a maid and keep her there.
There is some sympathy, when he says that he never lied to her, and when he says he kept within the limits of the law. But all that is quickly forgotten when he continues to mock her misery.