For Richer or Poorer

         After reading Henry James's 1880 Washington Square and watching director William Wyler's 1949 The Heiress, I saw a whole new side of the principal characters, Morris Townsend and Catherine Sloper, that were in the book and then in the movie.

         I had never realized that Morris was such a manipulative person until I saw him, as played by Montgomery Clift, in the movie. As I read through most of the book, I thought he genuinely loved Catherine (Olivia de Havilland), but I saw that he evidently wanted her money more than he wanted her love. Until nearly the end of the book, I believed Morris to be portrayed as a loving "guy," who wanted only to be with Catherine and love her for her and not her money. However, seeing Morris being acted out as a character made him seem from the beginning as a whole new person from what he seemed to be in the book.

         Catherine also changed in my eyes through the book and then through the movie. She seemed almost as a coward that was "suckered" into Morris's trap in the book. Even when Catherine found out about Morris, she never seemed to care that much; she went on about her business as though he had never been in her life. In the movie, she fell for Morris hard at the beginning; and she never thought that he would do her wrong; but, when she realized what he had been doing to herself, she became a woman and stood up for herself just as she should have.

         In watching the movie, I really enjoyed the part when Morris came back to see Catherine and confess his false love for her; and she played him into a trap. I thought it was sweet revenge to watch him bang on the door and yell for her and then for her to not even say anything to him. It was almost ironic because it was quite similar to the way ] he had left her without letting her know what was going on, and then he stayed gone for years before showing back up in her life.

         I find it intriguing how reading a book and then watching a movie can cause such a change in how someone can perceive things. I seriously did a complete turn in how I thought these two characters to be portrayed. It is fun to see how a writer and how a director can see things differently.

Wendy Barger

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