The Heroines

     The author Henry James wrote both Washington Square and The Turn of the Screw. Washington Square was written in 1880 and is very different from the much later published (1898) novella, The Turn of the Screw. While the earlier work is a direct love story turned bad, the later work is a complex ghost story. Though both works are seemly different from one another, there are some interesting similarities between the heroines in both novels, which were later turned into plays, which then became movies. The play The Heiress, written in 1948 by Ruth and Augustus Goetz and filmed in 1949 by William Wyler, was based on Washington Square. The play The Innocents, written by William Archibald in 1950 and filmed in 1961 by Jack Clayton, was taken from The Turn of the Screw. Both Catherine in Washington Square/The Heiress and the governess in The Turn of the Screw/The Innocents find themselves in terrible situations; they both have very admirable characters; and they are both quite alone in their situations.

     In these works the heroines find themselves in a situation that could possibly be the worst thing to ever happen to them. The meek and gentle Catherine (Olivia de Havilland on screen) falls in love with a man (Montgomery Clift in the movie) whom her father, Dr. Sloper (Ralph Richardson in the film), disapproves of so much that the doctor threatens to disinherit her. When Catherine decides to follow her heart and marry her love, Morris, he leaves her because all he really wanted was her inherence.

     The governess in The Turn of the Screw, named Miss Giddens in the play and film, in which she is played by Deborah Kerr, finds herself in a wholly different situation, except for its being just as traumatic or worst than Catherine's situation. The governess starts to see the ghosts of the former caretakers, Quint and Miss Jessel (Peter Wyngarde and Clytie Jessop on screen), who worked at the residence that she now looks after. After find out how close these caretakers had been to the children that she is in charge of, Miles and Flora (Martin Stephens and Pamela Franklin in the movie), she start to worry about the children's well being. The appearances of the ghosts start to become worse and worse, and the governess believes that the children have been corrupted by these ghosts.

     The next characteristic that the heroines have in comon is their amiable character. In Washington Square Catherine is considered a somewhat dull, nice girl. She tries to do everything that her father expects of her. Only for love will she go against his wishes, and even then she tries to do the noble, correct thing. At the end of the novel, when Morris comes back, Catherine remain dignified and yet, does not fall for his lies. In the play and film, a more feisty Catherine sends Morris packing at the end. Like Catherine, the governess tries to do what is right. When she realizes that there is danger and that the children's innocence is at stake, she does not leave the house as she would like to do. She stays to fight for the children against the evil. And when she sees that it has gone too far, she sends Flora away and stays with Miles to help him against the temptation of Quint.

     The last similarity is the loneliness that both heroines experience. After Catherine's trip to Europe with her father, she realizes that he does not love her; he only feels contempt for her. And soon after this discovery, Morris leaves Catherine. With her mother died and an aunt who is looking out for her own interests, Catherine is left with no one to truly love or to care about her. In The Turn of the Screw/The Innocents, the young and inexperienced governess is left in charge of a huge summer mansion, Bly, and the two beautiful little children. The master of Bly does not want to be bothered, and the governess' only friend cannot help or at least seems to not want to help. She is left alone to fight for the children and for her own sanity.

     In conclusion, these two women, Catherine and the governess, have experienced certain similar events in their lives. They have difficult situation to deal with on their own. And with these situations, they do the best job they can.

Lisa Graham

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