From Heartbreak to Independence

        Henry James's 1880 Washington Square, filmed in 1949 as The Heiress by William Wyler, was a wonderful story whether told through reading a book or watching a movie. I loved how it showed the way Catherine (Olivia de Havilland) grew as a woman even though she had to do it the hard way by going through heartbreak.

        Before Catherine had met Morris (Montgomery Clift), she was timid and shy. She kept to herself and never wanted to join other people in social settings. She took pride in her cross-stitching and skills of playing the piano in the book, although she could not play the piano or the harp in the movie. Being around other people frightened her, and she did not know how to act around them. She was even afraid to stand up for herself to her father when he told her that she would never be as beautiful or sophisticated as her deceased mother.

        When Catherine met Morris, she immediately fell in love with him because he encouraged her to open up and stand up for herself. He gave her the courage to finally stand up to her father and tell him how things were going to be. However, Morris did not truly love Catherine. He only wanted to marry her because she would be wealthy, thanks to her inheritances from her father and her mother, while he was poor with scant prospects. He wanted her to be able to take care of him. When he found out that she would not be getting any money from her father if she were to marry him, he left her because he knew that he would not be getting enough to satisfy him out of the marriage.

        This broke Catherine's heart, and she never fell in love again. However, it made her a stronger person because she became comfortable with being herself and being alone. It also helped her to realize that some people are only looking out for themselves and no one else. This made her rely on herself more and stick up for herself when no one else would. She had to learn the hard way to become an independent woman, but it was the only way and the best way.

Ashley Veigl

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