Sit, Roll Over, and Play Dead

     The 1949 film The Heiress (fashioned after Henry James's 1880 Washington Square) and Henrik Ibsen's 1879 play A Doll's House, filmed in 1973 by Joseph Losey, although quite different in plot, share a striking resemblance. The Heiress is the story of a young woman who, left without a mother or any other appropriate female role model, is left entirely dependent on and in love with her abusive father. The young woman, so intent on pleasing and obeying her father, refuses a beautiful, charming, older man, and her own happiness, at her father's orders. In A Doll's House, a young married woman will do anything to protect her husband's integrity, even dispense with her own. Nora (Jane Fonda on screen) secretly takes out a loan from the bank to save the life of her beloved husband (David Warner in the film), who would be crushed at the thought of being in debt to anyone, especially his wife.

     Both of these women would have sacrificed anything for the men in their lives. When Nora's husband found out about the loan, he was outraged and lashed out at her horribly, even though she had acted out of pure love and sacrifice. When Catherine's father found out about her love for Morris, he threatened to disinherit her, completely ignoring her previous years of loyal devotion. These men were so weak and thoughtless that they let a silly thing like their fragile little egos trample all over the women. They cannot stand the thought of being outsmarted or even equaled by anyone else, especially a woman.

     Although the two women, Catherine, a shy, soft spoken, introvert, and spunky, outgoing Nora, personally have nothing in common, they are victims of the same abuse. The crime is oppression. Women all over the world suffer from bullshit dished out by their "loved ones." In many cases, the more they give, the more selfish the men become, and the more they take that devotion for granted. Ownership, I believe they call it. These women do not help their case any by obliging the men. Dr. Sloper and Torvald despised Catherine and Nora just as one would a dog who constantly got under one's feet.

     After all those years of a perfect marriage (for all he knew) Nora finally needed a simple favor.....a little understanding. She knew Torvald was not worth wasting the rest of her life on when he folded at the opportunity to repay her for her devotion, and just like that, she left. Once Catherine realized her father had forbade her to see Townsend out of selfishness and possessiveness, she gave him up just as easily.

     Now I will not try to sell you any foolish notions about happy endings for either of these women, but it is much better to live as a woman who can take care of herself and is allowed to have her own thoughts and feelings, than to live as any master's dog.

Gabrielle Deaton

Table of Contents