Morris The Good Guy

         In the 1880 Henry James novel Washington Square and the 1949 cinematic adaptation, The Heiress (directed by William Wyler), Morris Townsend (Montgomery Clift) is made to be this terrible person because he tries to marry Catherine (Olivia de Havilland). If we look at this story from his perspective, we might see Morris as a "good guy."

         Growing up, Morris may have never been taught how to control his money. Just because he spent his own money, that does not mean he would spend Catherine's money. The point is that it was Morris' money to begin with; and when it was gone, he stopped. In the film, Clift's Morris really appears to be in love with Catherine. Also in the novel, as well as in the movie. Morris must have had some feelings for Catherine to put up with Mrs. Penniman's annoying meetings and the agonizing conversations with Dr. Sloper.

         How do we know that his intentions for leaving Catherine were not honorable? He had told Mrs. Penniman (Miriam Hopkins) that he was leaving because he did not want Catherine and Dr. Sloper (Ralph Richardson) to dislike each other because of him. Even though Morris may have not taken the proper steps in breaking this news to Catherine, his excuse could be believable and almost admirable.

         Morris may have treated Catherine as well as any man possibly could. Dr. Sloper is the true villain by not having an open mind. Dr. Sloper only does and says the things he does because it makes him feel power over Catherine. He has to feel that he has control over someone to feel secure. There are many ways he could have kept Morris from spending Catherine's inheritance, such as savings bonds or even teaching Morris how to handle his money.

         Everyone in this story made mistakes. If the characters would have taken two steps back to get out of the drama of the situation, things may have turned out differently and much more happily.

Magen Marksberry

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