I have often heard the old quotation "Father Knows Best" during my childhood. It was not until I viewed William Wyler's 1949 film The Heiress, based on Henry James's 1880 novel Washington Square, that I truly understood the meaning behind this quotation. I think that adolescent girls can learn a powerful lesson from James's novel and Wyler's film.
In The Heiress, as well as in Washington Square, young Catherine (Olivia de Havilland) is so blinded by her immense love for Morris Townsend (Montgomery Clift) that she cannot see the truth. The truth is that Morris is only after her money. Dr. Sloper, Catherine's father (Ralph Richardson), does everything in his power to keep Catherine from marrying Morris. While many people see Dr. Sloper as selfish and cruel, I see him as a caring and protective parent. He used his gut judgment about Mr. Townsend, and he was right. I do not think that Dr. Sloper was trying to hurt Catherine. In fact, I think he was trying to spare her feelings by taking her abroad with him in hopes that she would forget about Morris and give him up. I think Dr. Sloper was just trying to protect his little girl. He knew that she was not very bright. When Dr. Sloper finally got blunt with Catherine, I think it was out of love because he did not want her to marry Mr. Townsend and then be hurt and mistreated later. While it would have been a happy fairy tale ending if Morris had not have been after Catherine's money, the story would not have been very realistic; and we would not have such a strong message to learn from.
As much as I hate to admit this, parents are often right. Teenagers often think they know what is best, but many times they find that their parents have been right yet again. Teenagers should at least consider the advice given by their parents because many times parents have either dealt with a similar experience and know what should be done. Also they are more in touch with reality and can see things that teenagers cannot. If Catherine would have listened to Dr. Sloper in the beginning when he had told her he did not approve of Morris, then she could have saved herself much heartache and grief. Catherine's eyes were so clouded with love for Morris, she could not see what seemed so obvious to everyone else.
I really like Catherine's reaction to Morris's request to take him back in the movie. Catherine finally learned her lesson and realized that her father had known best. I only wish that Dr. Sloper still could have been alive to see her finally stand up for herself and give Morris what he deserves.