Cathy versus Catherine

         Catherine Earnshaw (Cathy) from the 1939 movie Wuthering Heights, directed by William Wyler and based on Emily Brontë’s 1847 book, and Catherine Sloper from the 1949 film, The Heiress, directed by William Wyler and based on Henry James’s 1880 Washington Square, have many similarities and many differences. These two women, both had families that seemed to affect the woman that they eventually became. Even though Cathy was originally portrayed as a young girl, by Sarita Wooten, so the audience was able to see her grow into a young woman, played by Merle Oberon, we can also see Catherine, depicted by Olivia de Havilland as a young adult, grow because she changes dramatically. These two women were empowering for their respective audiences in 1939 and 1949.

         Though these women have many similarities, one difference sticks out. Cathy began as a cheerful middle-class girl that dreamed of being part of the higher, more sophisticated class. Cathy fell into her dream class when she was bit by a dog and forced to stay for a time at Thrushcross Grange, where the rich Edgar Linton (David Niven) fell in love with her. Catherine, on the other hand, was very wealthy but simply did not fit into the upper New York City society that her father had thrown her into because she was a shy, soft-spoken woman of few words at a time.

         Something that these two ladies have in common was their love of men that they never married due to socioeconomic reasons. Cathy fell in love with Heathcliff at a young age (Rex Downing) but realized, as she got older that marrying him (Laurence Olivier) would cost her forever her dream of riches. Therefore, she married Edgar and his money. At the end, however, defying her marriage to Edgar, Cathy died in the arms of Heathcliff, a man that she had not married but had deeply loved. Catherine, on the other hand, was more than willing to marry under her socioeconomic class when she fell in love with Morris played by Montgomery Cliff. Morris was also very willing to marry, but only for money, above his class. In fact, when he was told that Catherine’s money would not come with their marriage he left her waiting for him. However, at the finale, when Morris came back for her and her money, Catherine defied the man that she had once loved and let him bang on her front door, begging in vain for her forgiveness. Although Cathy and Catherine have their differences with each other, both became empowered by enduring lives without being able to marry the men that they loved due to socioeconomic reasons that were insurmountable.

         Despite other characters attempts to keep these couples apart they still found one another. Cathy loved Heathcliff long after she had been married to another man. Catherine’s father knew of Morris’ character and tried to keep them apart but she fell for him anyway. Neither of these couples, however, was able to have a lasting relationship. Catherine died in Heathcliff’s arms just after confessing her love for him. Catherine left Morris on the front stoop begging for his love. In the end it seems that these two couples will only live together as characters in our movies.

Maggie McKay

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