Should I Stay or Should I Go?

         Does love really conquer all? Most of us would believe that it does but some of the works we have studied in class are beginning to make me believe differently. As in the case of Washington Square, A Doll's House and Wuthering Heights the main characters find themselves right in the middle of this debate. The have, or believe they have true love, so what in the world could possibly get in the middle of that? I believe these works show that a variety of things can actually come in the middle of that, sometimes giving reason to why the characters do what they do.

         In Henry James's 1880 Washington Square, filmed as The Heiress in 1949 by William Wyler, Catherine (Olivia de Havilland) was madly in love with Morris (Montgomery Clift), so why did she not end up being with him? If she would have ignored her father's wishes and just ran away with him she would have been able to live happily ever after, because in her mind she truly found love. However, Morris was a free rider. The tug of war that went on over Catherine between Morris and Dr. Sloper had damaging effects on all three of them. When Morris found out that Catherine would lose her inheritance if they left together, he found a way to leave on his own. It is sad to see the way it ended, for Catherine anyway, not so much for Morris. Because Morris' heart probably was not in it for the right reasons, Catherine was now damned to be unhappy and bitter for the rest of her life; and she did not deserve that.

         In Henrik Ibsen's 1879 A Doll's House, filmed twice in 1973 by Joseph Losey and Patrick Garland, we run into a similar problem. Nora (Jane Fonda/Claire Bloom) felt disrespected and disappointed because Torvald (David Warner/Anthony Hopkins) treated her more like a doll than a real person. However I am not really sure his actions were justified in the end. Although Torvald did blow up, it was all in the heat of the moment, I think you have to give him that he had just taken a pretty heavy blow. Another thing is, Nora truly had no place to go, and she had no skills to offer as far as work. Also, how could a mother abandon a child? Maybe after Torvald came to grips with the situation he would treat her the way she deserved to be treated. I am left wondering that if after she went out to find herself, if she ever did come back, would he take her?

         With Emily Brontë's 1847 Wuthering Heights, filmed in 1939 by William Wyler, we run into a very different problem. Catherine (Sarita Wooten/Merle Oberon) and Heathcliff (Rex Downing/Laurence Olivier) were childhood loves, so why did they not end up together. I believe pride played a large part in the downfall of this story. But if anything I think this story proves that love is way more valuable than money. In not accepting Heathcliff the way he was, Cathy brought pain and misery to everyone around her, including herself. I cannot even imagine how painful it was being neighbors with the person you truly love.

         Apparently love does not conquer all. Pride, wealth and many other things play a larger part in our lives than we are willing to admit. Most all of these characters, and most all people in general have the capacity to love and be loved as well, but how do we as human beings continue to screw that up for generations upon generations? Are we ever going to get it right?

Jon Jones

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