Lesson in Leaving

         Throughout the duration of the semester, we have read works and watched movies which possess some of the most diverse and unique leading ladies. Each of these women encompasses specific qualities and characteristics which make them undeniably entertaining. However, on more than one occasion, I have found myself fighting the urge to shout at the movie screen: "No! Don't do that!"

         I would not necessarily consider myself a feminist; however, when I see a woman, fictional character or not, being submissive to a man, I can do nothing but shake my head in disbelief. In the musical My Fair Lady, directed in 1964 and based on George Bernard Shaw's 1913 Pygmalion, Eliza Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn) has a remarkable revelation, realizes how Higgins (Rex Harrison) has mistreated her, then returns to him in the end not as the respectable lady she had evolved into, but as the flower girl she had so desperately wished to escape. I feel as though Eliza could have taken a lesson from Nora of Henrik Ibsen's 1879 play, A Doll's House[, filmed in 1973 by Joseph Losey and Patrick Garland respectively, and Catherine of Henry James's 1880 Washington Square, filmed in 1949 as The Heiress by George Cukor.

         Once Torvald (David Warner/Anthony Hopkins) realized that Nora (Jane Fonda/Claire Bloom) was actually going to leave, his manner changed dramatically. He was no longer a brash and controlling husband, but an apologetic man frantic to keep his wife. Throughout the play and films, Nora had sacrificed in order to cater to the image Torvald was determined to convey; but, contrary to his beliefs, she had a breaking point; and she had reached it.

         At one point Catherine (Olivia de Havilland) was naïve and in love with Morris (Montgomery Clift), willing to forsake her inheritance to marry him; however once he hurt her, she was strong and intelligent enough not to succumb to him again. Morris also altered his behavior greatly when he returned to Catherine, pleading for her forgiveness. Like Nora, Catherine could see through such a transparent portrayal, and refused to be taken in by it.

Kasey Wilson

Table of Contents