The Effects of Reassurance

         Washington Square, which was written in 1880 by Henry James and filmed as The Heiress in 1949 by William Wyler, is a story of a lowly heiress, Catherine Sloper (played by Olivia de Havilland) , and her struggle to find herself and to find a mate of her father's (Dr. Austin Sloper, played by Ralph Richardson) approval. Unfortunately, approval is never granted for anything that Catherine has done, from her embroidery, volunteering at the hospice, and even her choice in dress.

         From one family to another, there is a big difference in how children are being raised. Catherine was led to believe by her father that Morris Townsend (Montgomery Clift) was after her only for her inheritance. Dr. Sloper asserts in the book to Catherine: "If Morris Townsend has spent his own fortune in amusing himself, there is every reason to believe that he would spend yours." He makes similar demeaning comments in the movie. Because of this, she is leading a life of bitterness and finding out her father truly despises her, Catherine slowly closes out life as a bitter woman.

         Relating my life to Catherine's, I am lucky enough to still have my mother around, as well as my older sister. My father is a hard worker, like Dr. Sloper, who rarely gives himself a day off. He works hard to continue his own homegrown business as a general contractor and to provide comforts for his family. Nevertheless, no matter what was needed, my father worked to help me or my sister out any way possible.

         When I was in high school, I competed on the high school volleyball and track and field teams, as well as in the Indiana High School Rodeo Association for four years. No matter if I was on the junior varsity team or was the top player for the club team, my dad made sure he and my mom were there at every home game and every track meet to watch every throw of the discus. Moreover, of course they hauled me to every high school rodeo. The support of my parents, especially that of my father, has meant so much to me and has made me believe that I can accomplish anything that I put my mind to. His presence reassured me that he loved me and that he was my number one fan.

         It is something like this that has me comparing myself to Catherine. I am in my senior year of college and am not looking for a suitor for marriage as of yet. I have no pressure from either parent to decide where I will live or what I will do. Right now, they are just as proud of me nearing graduation as I am happy to accomplish my goal of graduating from college in four years.

         Without the support of my parents, it would be scary to even imagine where I would be today. I probably would no have stuck with competing and training horses, which would have meant I would not have won my World Championship in Novice Amateur Hunter Under Saddle this year at the Palomino World Show. I probably would not have stuck to my studies to soon graduate with at least Cum Laude honors in May.

         Perhaps with Dr. Sloper's confidence in Catherine, she may have found someone before she met Morris who truly loved her. She would have been so shy and withdrawn into herself to make it hard to crack the pretty smile that I am sure she had. They say that confidence brings out a beautiful person. If Catherine had been instilled with confidence, love, and reassurance, she may not have been so plain, but a radiant and happy woman.

Megan Arszman

Table of Contents