My Experience

         During this fall semester, I have learned a lot from being in a film and literature class. I have learned how to analyze films and to read more into books. I have also learned how different people and the society were during the particular time these stories and films were made.

         When I watch a movie now, I look at the intention of the film maker, the background music, the clothing, and the tone. I generally look at things in the film to see if they fit well together. I ask myself, "Is the music right for that scene? Are the costumes appropriate for that time period? And what message is the film maker trying to send out?" I never did these things before this class. I just sat and watched a movie, not paying any attention to what was happening in the background. I did not look at the small things.

         Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë; Washington Square, by Henry James; and A Streetcar Named Desire, by Tennessee Williams, are the stories that taught me the most. All three of these stories are about love of some sort. Some items in each of these particular stories are different from the society we live in now. These stories helped me learn and understand about societies of earlier times.

         Emily Brontë's 1847 book, Wuthering Heights (filmed in 1939 by William Wyler), was generally based on what other people thought. In the book and film, Catherine (as played by Merle Oberon) was elegant and educated. She came from a well-to-do family, and she was deeply in love with a poor stable boy named Heathcliff (Laurence Olivier). Catherine's brother, Hindley (Hugh Williams), as well as the rest of the town, did not approve of poor Heathcliff. Catherine was always pushed to marry someone who had money and could take care of her, and she ended up marrying such a man. This society was based on what people thought about others, how things would look to others, and especially who had money and who did not.

         Henry James's 1880 book, Washington Square (filmed in 1949 by William Wyler as The Heiress), was mostly based on what things are considered appropriate and proper and what things are not. Catherine in this story is not your typical rich girl. She is not intelligent, pretty, elegant, or talented, as she is expected to be. Catherine falls in love with a man named Morris (Montgomery Clift) whom her father does not like. In that society, a gentleman is expected to ask permission of the father of the lady he would like to marry before he asks the lady. Morris does not follow these guidelines. Dr. Sloper (Ralph Richardson), Catherine's father, feels that Morris has disrespected him, and he also feels that Morris is only interested in Catherine's money. This society showed me how people were discriminated against during that time. Morris was looked at as being an unfit husband because he did not have a job and he had no money. This society also showed me the proper guidelines of marriage that were to be followed during that time.

         Tennessee Williams' 1947 play, A Streetcar Named Desire (filmed in 1951 by Elia Kazan), is based on tradition. Stella (Kim Hunter), the wife of Stanley (Marlon Brando), is the typical stay-at-home wife. She cooks and cleans and does what she is told. Stanley is the breadwinner; he works and brings home meats. Stanley drinks most of the time and is abusive. This abuse seems normal to everyone around them. Stanley is in control all of the time, and he does what he wants, when he wants. Stella always obeys him, no matter what he does. This society showed me how powerless women were at that time and how abuse was seen as normal. This book also showed me how people kept to themselves. People minded their own business in all situations.

         I have learned a lot about our past societies. I realize how different it would have been to live during any of these times, in any of these societies. I know that our society is not the best in the world, but I prefer this society over the ones depicted in the books I have discussed. Our society is more free than the ones in those times.

Jennifer Myers

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