Really a Bad Guy?

     Call me naive, but I do not think Morris was such a bad guy. I really think Dr. Sloper was too hard on poor Morris. Perhaps he really did have honorable intentions towards Catherine. He certainly could not have hurt her anymore than the doctor did in Henry James's 1880 Washington Square, filmed in 1949 as The Heiress, directed by William Wyler and based on the 1950 play by Ruth and Augustus Goetz.

     Poor Catherine was simply a rich girl with no prospects of a man in her future. Olivia de Havilland does an excellent job of playing this role. Perhaps she was practicing for a later role (i.e. a later equivalent of Melanie Wilkes, which she played earlier in the 1939 Gone With the Wind). Catherine seemed to be a shy, backwards girl. She had no experience of any kind with men. Certainly she was going to fall for the first man that showed her any attention. It was just such a shame that the man had to be a poor playboy. However, did this give Dr. Sloper any reason to doubt his intentions towards Catherine?

     Maybe, just maybe, Morris really did love Catherine. Perhaps he had every intention of being a faithful husband to her. Let us just suppose Morris was after Catherine's money. Does this have to mean that he would not make her a good husband? Who would not be a little persuaded by a sweet girl's inheritance? Montgomery Clift, the actor that played Morris, does so in such a scheming way. It is impossible to tell if he is genuine or a scoundrel. To Catherine and her aunt he was so polite and sincere. However, in scenes with Catherine's father, he does seem a little arrogant. If he did not intend to be faithful to Catherine, that still does not mean that she would not have been happy. What kind of a life was she going to have being all alone after her father's death? At this time in history, it was not uncommon for a man to have a mistress. Perhaps Catherine and Morris could have had an understanding.

     Catherine's father could not have cared too much for her well being. Otherwise, he would have never told her how homely and boring she was. It seems that he just did not want Morris having any hold on his money. Ralph Richardson, the actor playing Dr. Sloper, does an excellent job of playing a cruel, arrogant man. His own love of money seemed to affect his decisions concerning his daughter. He wanted to control her even after he was gone.

     I have to continue to believe that Dr. Sloper made a tremendous mistake in not allowing Catherine to marry Morris. She was a mature girl and should have been allowed to make that decision on her own. This is an important key to living life to its fullest. Everyone must make his or her own decisions and learn from his or her mistakes. Catherine should have been given this freedom.

Shannon Powers

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