How Dare You?

     I read the 1880 novel Washington Square, written by Henry James. I also saw the 1949 movie The Heiress, directed by William Wyler. I was struck by the boldness of Morris Townsend.

     In the novel I could tell Morris was up to something when he told Doctor Sloper he, Morris, was not fit for much in the way of employment. I knew Catherine was very shy and plain in appearance. Of course I knew (as did Morris) she stood to inherit a hefty sum, in addition to what she had already inherited. At first I thought Morris might really like Catherine, but the lack of a position was a flashing red light. I just could not believe the way he began visiting her alone, and the things he was saying to her very early in their acquaintance. Poor Catherine thought it was original when Morris said, "We shall meet again!" upon leaving the party the night they first met.

     The first time Morris visited Catherine alone, he made himself very much at home and spoke quite casually to her. The second time he came he accepted a dinner invitation, which was Doctor Sloper's idea. At dinner Morris drank all the wine and smoked all the cigars he wanted. After dinner he had the nerve to tell poor Catherine she should defy her father and argue with him if he was to say he did not like Morris. That was nothing! He proposed to the lovesick girl after only six weeks!

     In the movie, the situation is even more unbelievable. Morris (Montgomery Clift) immediately begins to shine his best charm on Catherine (Olivia de Havilland) and asks her to marry him after only two weeks. Of course, she is dazzled and amazed that this beautiful creature could be interested in her. I will never forget the way Catherine had to literally back away from Morris during their conversations in the movie. She had to back away because he was nearly on her, since he was coming on so strong.

     I think this story is better dramatized than simply read. I could see how simple Catherine really was, and how handsome Morris really was. The movie made me realize how unfair a match the whole mess was. I hated seeing how he promised to come back for her on the night they were to elope. Catherine was so pitiful, sitting there with her bags all packed, ready to begin her new, exciting life!

     I am very glad Morris got what he deserved, especially in the movie. He should not even have gotten the Paris buttons!

Deborah Bland

Table of Contents