Degraded Love

         Of the assigned works in this class, all would be good examples of negative relationships. They are all alien to healthy interpersonal communion, with the possible exception of the first and last relationships in Wuthering Heights--Hindley and Earnshaw, Catherine and Hareton, and a few others scattered throughout the other works.

         While it does contain possibly the only two healthy relationships, Wuthering Heights, written by Emily Brontë in 1847 and filmed by William Wyler in 1939, contains several destructive relationships. Earnshaw (Cecil Kellaway) has a neglectful relationship with Hindley (Douglas Scott). He, in turn, is neglectful to his son and feels enmity toward Heathcliff (Rex Downing). In the novel, Hindley seems to have a loving marriage, but the relationship between he and his wife is not thoroughly explored.

         More so in the novel than in the film, Joseph (Leo G. Carroll) is too hypocritical to have loving or even decent interactions with anyone. At the same time, Ellen (Flora Robson) is extremely intrusive and occasionally inconclusive in her relationships. She is too pushy with the few who can stand her, and she injures others by her insinuating herself into situations.

         Catherine seems to love Heathcliff, and she also loves the wealth of Edgar (David Niven). Marrying for wealth only is not conducive to healthy relationships. Catherine's relationship with Heathcliff is very violent and hurts not only the lovers, but also others. They do things to spite not only themselves, but also others. They do things to spite each other or gain revenge. This interaction is definitely not conducive to ideal love.

         Heathcliff's marriage to Isabella (Geraldine Fitzgerald) is repulsive. He is physically, mentally, and verbally abusive. In the book, the same interaction is present with his son. The only person that he has any like for besides Catherine is Hareton, and he refuses to care for him because of the boy's father.

         In the novel, the younger Catherine has a maladjusted relationship with her cousin Linton. He uses her. She is the only one who cares; Linton simply wants to escape his father. Later she does seem to develop a loving marriage to Hareton.

         Washington Square, written by Henry James in 1880 and filmed in 1949 by William Wyler as The Heiress, is also full of neglectful and hurtful relationships. Not one relation among the four main characters, familial or otherwise, is healthy.

         Dr. Sloper (Ralph Richardson) and his deceased wife's relationship, while it may have once been loving and healthy, degenerates into a form of idol worship. He is emotionally abusive to his daughter (Olivia de Havilland) and does not interact or relate to his sister, Mrs. Penniman (Miriam Hopkins). He seems to think no one is worthy of him but his late wife.

         Catherine is so starved for actual love that she allows Morris (Montgomery Clift) to charm her. Her aunt is self-obsessed and likes to volley up her own position rather than attend to Catherine's needs. Mrs. Penniman, in fact, seems almost interested in Morris, but treasures her own dealings more than anyone's feelings.

         In Henry James's The Turn of the Screw, written in 1898 and filmed as The Innocents by Jack Clayton in 1961, all of the relationships are a bit muddled. They are confusing, and it is difficult to ascertain their exact nature. The children, Miles (Martin Stephens) and Flora (Pamela Franklin), almost seem too close. The governess is a little overbearing. Mrs. Gross (Megs Jenkins) leaves thing alone and leaves things out. The relationship between Miss Jessel (Clytie Jessop) and Peter Quint (Peter Wyngarde) seems sexual, but it is unknown in what exact context. Also, the specifics are mixed on the aforementioned couple's relations with the children.

         In Pygmalion, written for the stage in 1913 by George Bernard Shaw and filmed in 1938 by Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard, and My Fair Lady, filmed in 1964 by George Cukor and based on Shaw's play, the relationships revolve around using. Henry Higgins (Leslie Howard/Rex Harrison) uses Eliza (Wendy Hiller/Audrey Hepburn) to prove a point; and she in turn uses him to try to advance herself. Eliza's father at first uses her to gain monetarily. Higgins uses his mother to try Eliza out. The only true and fairly healthy relationship seems to be the close friendship and camaraderie between Higgins and Pickering (Scott Sutherland/Wilfrid Hyde-White).

         A Doll's House, written for the stage by Henrik Ibsen in 1879 and filmed twice in 1973 by Joseph Losey and Patrick Garland, respectively, revolves around several relationships that seem almost half negative and half positive. Nora (Jane Fonda/Claire Bloom) and Torvald (David Warner/Anthony Hopkins) seem to be loving, but it is obvious that there is repressed tension throughout. Also, the relationship is not truthful, and thus would have encountered problems eventually. Christine (Delphine Seyrig/Anna Massey) does not support Nora throughout, but sill makes a necessary choice. Dr. Rank (Trevor Howard/Ralph Richardson) is almost a snake in the grass, watching from afar and feigning friendship.

         A Streetcar Named Desire, written by Tennessee Williams in 1947 and filmed by Elia Kazan in 1951, is full of abusive, deceiving relationships. Stanley (Marlon Brando) becomes physical with both Stella (Kim Hunter) and Blanche (Vivien Leigh); he also swings at his friends. Blanche and, at times, Stella are verbally abusive to Stanley. The upstairs neighbors' violence is overheard. In addition, Mitch (Karl Malden) misleads Blanche. He first wants to date her, but after he discovers her past, which she has deceived him about, he no longer wants her.

         Almost every relationship in every book and film this semester is full of dysfunctional relationships. Over half contain at least one type of abuse. Any of the movies and books would work as negative examples of relationships in a class on the subject. But just how many relationships are truly healthy and perfect at all times?

Sandra Way

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