A Father and His Daughter

         Washington Square, a book written by Henry James in 1880, filmed in 1949 by William Wyler as The Heiress, is a typical story about the father-daughter relationship. Over the centuries the relationship between a daughter and her father has not changed much. There is an intense relationship more with the father and his daughter than with the mother and her son. I have experienced this with my father. Dr. Sloper in the book is more like my father than the Dr. Sloper, as depicted by Ralph Richardson in the movie. Although my father is somewhat like Dr. Sloper I was much luckier than was Catherine, portrayed by Olivia de Havilland on screen.

         Catherine's father, Dr. Sloper, is very strict but in a kind way. Dr. Sloper has expected a lot out of Catherine. She has been expected to be pretty, intelligent, elegant, and talented as her mother had been before she died. Catherine is none of these things, but she has tried hard to look nice and to please her father. Dr. Sloper never lets his daughter know that he is disappointed in the way she is. He is nice to her; and he and Mrs. Penniman, his sister, acted by Miriam Hopkins in the movie, try to help her. Catherine is just not the person they want her to be. My father was never disappointed in me. He always liked the person that I was. He never expected me to be something I am not. We like to do all the same things, and we are pretty much just like one another.

         When Catherine finally meets a man named Morris, depicted by Montgomery Clift on screen, she falls in love with him. Morris falls in love with her supposedly and asks her to marry him. Morris does not ask her father first, as the man is supposed to do because he thinks Dr. Sloper does not like him. Catherine says yes and tells her father, who strongly disapproves as any responsible, caring father would. Morris does not have a job; he does not have any money; and he does not have a good reputation. Dr. Sloper figures Morris wants to marry Catherine only for her money. Catherine has inherited $10,000 from her mother's death; and, when her father dies, she will receive $20,000 more. Catherine does not believe that Morris cares only about he inheritance, so she decides with Morris to run away to get married. My father was also very protective of me as Dr. Sloper was with Catherine. Catherine does not see that her father is only looking out for her best interest.

         My dad did not like any of my boyfriends except for one. I have had some pretty lousy boyfriends, and I did have one young man that did use me for money and for a ride. This young man was a lot like Morris. He told my things I wanted to hear, but he did not mean a word he spoke. When I finally met the young man I am engaged to now, my father did not like him at first either. However, after my father realized they had a lot of things in common, such as they both love to fish and hunt, he treated him as his own son.

         Before Catherine and Morris decide to elope, Dr. Sloper takes Catherine away to several European venues, including Paris, so that maybe she would forget about Morris. She does not forget; so, when she gets back, Mrs. Penniman arranges to have Morris meet with Catherine so that they could make arrangements to get married. Catherine's father is very disappointed in her decision to go ahead and marry Morris. Dr. Sloper then decides to cut Catherine out of his will. In the book Dr. Sloper was going to give Catherine a fifth of the money, and in the movie Dr. Sloper acts as though he would cut Catherine out of his will, but he does not. Even if he cuts her partially or completely out of the will she still gets money for her mother's death, which is still enough to live on.

         Now that I am older, I understand that my father had been trying to protect me and that he had not wanted anything bad to happen to me. I think Dr. Sloper was just looking out for Catherine's well being. He did not want her to be hurt. She seemed to want to jump into this marriage rather quickly. I think that at the end when Catherine decides not to go back to Morris, she finally realizes that her father might have been right.

Jennifer Myers

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