Henry James's 1800 Washington Square is a novel that details love, trust, and betrayal, as does the 1949 movie, The Heiress, directed by William Wyler. A love that cannot exist under certain circumstances begins to grow and then suddenly halts and finally ends. The love at last turns into anger and hatred for one person, while the other still pursues that loved person.
Prior to finding Morris (Montgomery Clift), Catherine (Olivia de Havilland) lived a pretty useless existence. She lived with her father, Dr. Sloper (Ralph Richardson} and Aunt Lavinia Penniman (Miriam Hopkins). She was very plain, quiet, and soft spoken. After discovering Morris, she believed she had meaning. She began to show her emotions, and she spoke her mind. She believed that Morris wanted her for true love, not money. She loved Morris and she swore that she would do whatever it took to be with him.
After Morris had callously walked away in the book and did not show up one evening for them to leave and get married in the movie, Catherine changed. She was no longer the quiet and shy girl of before. Now she spoke with anger and hatred in her voice. She spoke what she thought and did not try to make anything sound better than it was. She stood up to her father and told him how she felt about him. Everything that Morris had built up inside of her to make her feel good and needed he had also destroyed and made her worse off than before. It destroyed her. When Morris returned and tried to reconcile their differences, Catherine coldly drove him away in the book and played him like a fool in the movie. She tricked him and in returned regained a little bit of pride that he took away from her. Her once sweet, kind, shy demeanor was now outspoken, cruel, and full of built-up anger.
I personally believe that the book by James, as well as the movie, did an excellent job of contrasting the before and after appearances of Catherine. The movie created the visual aspect. One could visually see the anger in her eyes and hear it in her voice. Her eyes even looked angry. Her tone was no longer easygoing but abrupt, harsh, and one
word--straightforward. One could tell by the paleness in her face and the dragging sound in her voice that Morris had destroyed her. Though not as effective visually, the book did a great job in effectively describing the before and after manifestations of Catherine. James did a great job in building up the drama for the final scene with Morris. He used various adjectives to describe the manner at which Catherine undertook the job of sending Morris away for good. James also did an excellent job of describing her inner thoughts and emotions that pertained to Morris and others, whereas the movie displayed these most effectively on the screen.