Bad Boy, Good Girl

     There has always been a special relationship between a father and a daughter. More often than not, girls can say that they are, or have been at one time, "Daddy's Little Girl." It is a special relationship between a father and a daughter and also an extremely complex and complicated one. Fathers are quick to brag about their daughters, to tell what wonderful, smart, beautiful, funny, virtuous persons they are, but they are also quick to protect their daughters against what they have deemed the ultimate threat--men.

     For years, a father is the number-one man in his daughter's life. Though he knows that that will not always be the case, he wants what is best for her and will sometimes go to great lengths to ensure that that happens. When it comes to guys, a father's approval is very important. Nine times out of ten, a girl brings her boy home to meet Dad, not Mom. However, daughters sometimes manage to disappoint their fathers, and it often takes much more than the batting of eyelashes, a hug, and a huge smile to be forgiven. Losing trust in his daughter must be one of the hardest things for a father to face, but the ability to see that it was just a mistake, and to forgive is a sign of true love between father and daughter. It is this protective instinct that is seen throughout, and the trust issue that seems most prevalent throughout both Henry James's 1880 Washington Square and William Wyler's 1949 The Heiress that interested me the most.

     Catherine Sloper (Olivia de Havilland in the movie) is nothing special. She is of average height and weight and is not the prettiest thing to grace the face of the planet. She is not exactly the smartest thing, either, but she tries desperately to please her father (Ralph Richardson in the movie) and never quite seems to get it quite right. All she wants is his approval, and he never gives it to her. He constantly compares her to her deceased mother, which must come as a heavy blow to her. Despite all of this, I feel that her father is at least proud of her in some small way, or at least wants to be. After all, she is his only child.

     It is a sad thing to see when Catherine tries to please her father, only to have him tell her that she did not get it right. She tries so hard, and it is really sad to see her feeling so unloved by her father!

     Catherine's ultimate mistake comes when she meets Morris Townsend (Montgomery Clift on screen) and "falls in love" with him. Dr. Sloper, being the intelligent man that he is, sees through Morris in an instant. He sees what Catherine fails to see, that Morris is nothing more than a well-dressed fortune hunter who only wants Catherine for her money. Though it is sad that he does not think that anyone could love Catherine for her, he does have a point.

      It did interest me that in the book, Dr. Sloper followed through with his promise and partially omitted Catherine from his will, while in the movie, he kept her in the will and did not take any of the money away from her. Perhaps it was a sign of his forgiveness that he felt that he could not voice to Catherine.

Sarah Fuchs

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