Is There a Doctor in the House

         If foreshadowing is the practice of great authors, then doctors write the prescriptions. Both Wuthering Heights, directed in 1939 by William Wyler and based on Emily Brontë's 1847 novel, and The Heiress, directed in 1949 by William Wyler and based on Henry James's 1880 Washington Square, have ominous warnings of heartache and disaster coming from the mouths of their resident doctors.

         Dr. Kenneth (Donald Crisp) of Wuthering Heights fame becomes a very important character, even though he is so dispensable. I felt we should hear the theme song to Ghostbusters every time someone was dying… "Who ya gonna call? Dr. Kenneth!" That is the only time he is necessary, which does make sense since he was a doctor. But he became the catalyst every time a character needed to disappear so another character could come in unwelcome! For instance, Edgar (David Niven) goes dashing off to find the good Doctor. He is out the door when Heathcliff (Laurence Oliver) waltzes in to let Cathy (Merle Oberon) die in his arms. Mind you, Dr. Kenneth does need to be there to witness Heathcliff's wrongdoing. After all, he predicted that Heathcliff was "full of hate" and that "He'll bite. He'll bite deeply."

         Does this not bother anyone? In our world, doctors are supposed to only perform when asked. Otherwise they cannot charge for their services! I rarely speak to a doctor unless I need him to make me well. But I do not tolerate them sticking their noses into my business uninvited! Dr. Kenneth's prediction came true, and he outlived both Cathy and Heathcliff to be able to prove his correctness.

         The Heiress has its own resident doctor (Ralph Richardson) who can be blamed for all the terrible things that happen to poor Catherine Olivia de Havilland). Not only is Dr. Sloper rude and cruel to his only daughter, but also he makes his own prediction that Morris Townsend (Montgomery Clift) is only after her inheritance. As we saw with Dr. Kenneth, Dr. Sloper is vindicated when Morris jilts Catherine. However, Dr. Sloper adds insult to injury by lowering her fortune. He gives her only a fifth in the book because she refuses to promise not to marry Morris although it is clear that she never will. In the movie, when Catherine tries to get him to dictate his revised will to disinherit her, he refuses.

         Dr. Sloper believes that Morris is indeed mercenary. He finds pleasure in allowing Catherine to defend Morris and then rebuff her. "But there are many poor men and they do not go through the streets proclaiming that they are not thieves. Especially when no one has accused them." Dr. Sloper allows Catherine to speak for Morris, only to shoot her down and eventually make her feel absolutely unlovable. This is not the way I thought doctors were supposed to act.

         Doctors Kenneth and Sloper are both able to read the people they are swearing off quite easily while everyone around them disagrees with them and ignores their advice. They have definitely practiced preventative medicine or at least tried to in these two cases. However, it was too bad that these particular patients refused to listened to them before so many lives were ruined.

Amanda J. Williams

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