Issues of Control

         Being in control is usually considered to be a good thing. If a person is said to be "in control," he or she has his or her life together. If a person is said to be "out of control," he or she does not have his or her own life together. If one person is controlling a different person's life, the first person in that situation is "in control," while the second person is "out of control." If the first person is considered "in control" at the expense of the second person, is the first person really in control, or does it only seem that way compared to the "control" of the second person? Most of the books and plays that I read, and movie versions of those books that I viewed in Film and Literature class, prove that when one person controls another person's life, neither of those people is "in control" of his or her own life.

         In Emily Brontë's 1847 novel, Wuthering Heights, as well as in the 1939 film, also entitled Wuthering Heights, directed by William Wyler, and in the 1954 Mexican film, Los Abismos de Pasion, directed by Luis Buñuel, Heathcliff (Rex Downing as a child, Laurence Olivier as an adult), also called Alejandro (Jorge Mistral) in Los Abismos de Pasion, controlled every person that knew him. When he was young in the book and Wyler version, he controlled Mr. Earnshaw (Cecil Kellaway), who had brought him home and made him a son. Though Hindley (Douglas Scott) had more control over Heathcliff when the two of them were young, once the two of them grew up the situation changed. Heathcliff/Alejandro gained control over the house that Hindley (Hugh Williams/Ricardo (Luis Aceves Castaneda) lived in, over his son, Hareton in the book and Jorgecito (Jaime González) in the Buñuel movie, over his finances, and over his general satisfaction with life. Though Cathy (Sarita Wooten/Merle Oberon)/Catalina (Irasema Dilian), was free spirited, Heathcliff/Alejandro had control over her as well. Every time hecame around, his Cathy/Catalina changed. Even though she had some happiness, she was never as happy as when she was with her love. Because of Heathcliff's/Alejandro's control over Cathy/Catalina, he also had control over Edgar Linton (David Niven)/Eduardo (Ernesto Alonzo), because Edgar/Eduardo was Cathy's/Catalina's husband, and her happiness affected him. He also had control over Edgar's/Eduardo's sister, Isabella (Geraldine Fitzgerald)/Isabel (Lilia Prado) because eventually he married her, and he made her life miserable as well, until she ran away. Despite the fact that Heathcliff/Alejandro had power over every person in the novel, he himself was not happy, and was quite "out of control."

         In Henry James's 1880 novel, Washington Square, as well Ruth and Augustus Goetz's 1948 play The Heiress, and the 1949 film adaptation directed by William Wyler, also entitled The Heiress, Catherine (Olivia de Havilland) was controlled by everyone around her. Her father (Ralph Richardson) tried his best to control whom she married, and even went so far as to deny her her inheritance to keep her from marrying the man he did not approve of. Her Aunt Pennimen (Miriam Hopkins) tried her best to keep Catherine interested in Morris Townsend (Montgomery Clift), trying to boost her image of him as well as make her think that he was interested. She tried to control Catherine in order to live vicariously through her. Morris Townsend controlled her, telling her that he loved her, when really he loved her money. Each person had his or her own motive for controlling Catherine, but each person ended up unhappy for it. Catherine's father and Morris both ended up alone, without Catherine's love, and Aunt Pennimen ended up without a friend from Catherine and without the romance she had been trying to stir up. Each person's unhappiness shows that each person lacked "control" over his or her own life.

         In Henry James's 1898 novella, The Turn of the Screw, and in the 1950 play The Innocents, by William Archibald, and the 1961 film adaptation The Innocents, directed by Jack Clayton, the governess (Deborah Kerr) controlled Miles (Martin Stephens) and Flora (Pamela Franklin), the two young children she was in charge of and had responsibility over. She tried to be with them every hour of the day, not letting them do anything on their own, tried to get them to tell her all of their secrets, and distrusted them when they whispered together where she could not hear what was being said. In the end, because of her "control," she frightened Flora, and she killed Miles. She, herself, can also be viewed to have been slightly insane and lacking in "control" over herself.

         In Henrick Ibsen's 1879 play, A Doll's House, the 1973 film version also entitled A Doll's House, directed by Joseph Losey, and the 1973 film version, A Doll's House, directed by Patrick Garland, Nora (Jane Fonda, Claire Bloom) was controlled by her husband, Torvald (David Warner/Anthony Hopkins). Torvald told her whether or not she was allowed to eat macaroons; he told her his ideas and opinions and expected her to agree; he told her when to leave parties; and he told her whether she would or would not take care of her own children. In the end, Nora decided that she was tired of being controlled. Therefore, Torvald lost not only all of the "control" that he had but also his wife and the world that he had known for so long. If he had let Nora have control over herself, he would have ended the play in a much happier place instead of lacking "control."

         These books, plays, and films are just a few reasons why having control over someone else does not give a person control over him or herself. If the characters in these stories had just left well enough alone and let each person control him or herself, every person in the stories would have ended up with a much happier ending. Having control over one's self is hard enough without trying to exert the same amount of control over someone else!

Adrienne Haley

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