Catherine is a model Romantic character who allows the author to deny Romantic values. " 'I wish I could hold you,'" Catherine cries to Heathcliff on her deathbed, " 'till we were both dead! I shouldn't care what you suffered. I care nothing for your sufferings. Why shouldn't you suffer?'" (Bronte 158). Catherine is a woman arrested in the selfish yearnings of childhood; she is the center of her universe, caring nothing for anyone but herself, not even the man she claims is " 'always, always in (her) mind,'" (Bronte 82). The symbol of her youth and innocence, Wuthering Heights and the wild moors around it, are where she longs to return, identifying it as her resting place, where she and Heathcliff once roamed together and will again roam after death (Near death, Catherine says, " 'I'm sure I should be myself were I among the heather on those hills...'" (Bronte 124)). The confines of Thrushcross Grange, their civility and distance from nature, are not suitable to Catherine's character; always a robust and healthy child when she lived at the Heights, her adulthood at the Grange is marked by a wasting sickness. Catherine is a perfect example of all things Romantic: she is still in her childhood, she is best in wild and chaotic nature, and she is part of an all-consuming passion (as will be discussed later). Bronte makes her a mockery of Romantic values by making each of these qualities terrible in some way. Joyce Carol Oates writes that, "As Catherine Linton, married, and even pregnant, she has never been anything other than a child: this is the pathos of her situation, and not the fact that she wrongly, or even rightly, chose to marry Edgar Linton over Heathcliff. Bronte... challenges the very premises... of the Romantic exaltation of the child and childhood's innocence" (Oates 3). Oates also writes, "only the primitive and amoral child's world can accommodate her (Catherine's) stunted character" (Oates 6). Her childlike nature causes her to be wholly selfish, consumed not so much by naivety as simple disregard of the existence of others. Catherine's love of the chaos in nature is also subversive and horrible. Another critic remarks that "She (Catherine) is a child in Lockwood's dream because her emotional growth has matured no further than the childhood companionship she shared with Heathcliff" (Snider 13). Think: the entire story is offset by Lockwood's reading of a childish diary, followed by dreams of a child ghost--all about Catherine, eternally a child.
There is no innocence in this childhood, for Bronte makes childhood a state to be pitied, escaped, and transcended. It is more of a longing for death--a sad nostalgia that she can escape her existence by transcending it to the grave--than a true love of nature. For Catherine, the wildness of the moors is pure escapism, and for Bronte, this chaos of nature should be checked in some way. At the end of the novel, Catherine Linton (as opposed to Catherine Earnshaw) has Hareton planting flowers in a garden that had previously been wild in an obvious symbol. The bringing of order is something to be valued, Bronte says. A Romantic would wish for nature to be wild, just as Catherine does, but Bronte clearly does not.
Wuthering Heights and the Rejection of Romanticism