After reading Emily Brontë's 1847 Wuthering Heights and Henry James's 1880 Washington Square, I was surprised to see that both of the main characters in each book had the same first name. I am particularly fond of the name Catherine because it is my full name. Mine is spelled with a K instead of a C. Therefore, it was neat to read about two women both named Catherine. In comparing and contrasting the English Catherine Earnshaw and the New York Catherine Sloper, I found many similarities and differences. I will be discussion how both of the Catherines were wealthy and were loved by men that were not so wealthy and how both of the families were so opposed to their daughters getting involved with these men.
Both Catherines came from very wealthy families, and both of these women were were very animated characters. However, unlike her New York namesake, Catherine Earnshaw was a very beautiful woman. In William Wyler's 1939 movie, she was portrayed by Merle Oberon as a very dainty, socially adept woman who is beautifully attired once she stopped being a tomboy. In the book and in William Wyler's 1949 The Heiress, Catherine Sloper (Olivia de Havilland) was quite the opposite of Earnshaw because for most of the works she came across as socially clumsy, overdressed, and unattractive. Catherine's father, Dr. Sloper (Ralph Richardson) was constantly comparing Catherine to his deceased wife, who had been beautiful and very talented. Catherine was quite the opposite of her mother. She was not an ugly girl, but yet she was not beautiful like Catherine Earnshaw. Sloper did not have the social skills and manners that the ladylike Earnshaw did. Dr. Sloper thought that she did not have a lot to offer to a husband except for her money that she had inherited from her mother and would also inherit when her father died.
Both Catherines were similar because they were both in love with men that were not as wealthy as they were. When Sloper met Morris (Montgomery Clift), she was very excited because she had never had any man pay that much attention to her. Unfortunately, Morris loved Catherine for all of the wrong reasons, whereas Heathcliff loved his Catherine for herself alone.
Morris wanted Catherine's money because he had lost all of his gambling and living too well. Sloper's father did not want her to marry Morris because Dr. Sloper knew that Morris only wanted her for her money. This was quite the opposite of Earnshaw who had to "beat the men off with a stick." Earnshaw was a beautiful woman who had everything going for her. Throughout the whole book Catherine Earnshaw had two men who were madly in love with her. She ended up marrying Edgar Linton (David Niven) but still loved Heathcliff (Laurence Olivier) the most. Although she did not want to degrade herself to Heathcliff's servant level. She wanted the wealthy lifestyle that Linton could provide her with.
Catherine Sloper was in love with Morris just as Heathcliff was in love with Catherine Earnshaw. Heathcliff's love was more like the love of a stalker. He was always watching Earnshaw's window to see what she was doing. Likewise, later on in the book Washington Square when Sloper found out about Morris leaving town, she went to his house to see if he was really gone. This shows a similarity between the crazy love that Heathcliff and Sloper had for Morris and Earnshaw.
Towards the end of the book and movie Wuthering Heights, as Catherine Earnshaw was dying, she let Heathcliff hold her. She had become strong enough to finally let her guard down and let him love her as she loved him deep in her heart. However, at the end of the book Washington Square when Morris came back for Catherine Sloper after leaving her, she rejected him, although more politely than she did in the movie The Heiress, when she set him up with a phony elopement and let him pound away at the locked door as she mounted the stairs in vengeful triumph. Morris had hurt her very badly. She was bitter and mad at him for hurting her. She had not given him a second chance because he had blown it the first time. As the book and movie went on Catherine became a stronger person.
Catherine Earnshaw and Catherine Sloper had a lot of similarities between each other. They also had a lot of differences. Whatever the case may be these two women were very strong characters. I admire both of them for their ability to handle the men in their lives.