Beauty is More than Skin Deep

         In Henry James's 1880 novel, Washington Square, Catherine is not as ignorant and ugly as everyone thinks she is and makes her out to be. Anyone in her position would appear the same. Dr. Sloper, Catherine's father is constantly putting her down. This is seen clear in the 1949 cinematic adaptation, The Heiress (directed by William Wyler). Not only does Dr. Sloper (Ralph Richardson) make sarcastic remarks about Catherine's appearance and intelligence, but in one scene it seems he detest her. Dr. Sloper tells his only daughter that the only way anyone could love her is for her money.

         Catherine (Olivia de Havilland) is very talented, but everyone, even the people who supposedly love her, refuses to see it. In the movie, Catherine cannot play the piano, but in the novel she can play it well. Catherine, in the book and the novel, can embroider very splendidly. Not only does she have these obvious talents, but she also has the talent of being sweet and respectful. Dr. Sloper says that Catherine has no character, but she really does. With a father like him, nobody would be able to show it, Catherine is too afraid to say something that might upset him. Catherine does end up being very pretty and she does gain enough self-confidence to reveal her personality. At the end of the movie, Catherine is seen in an elegant white dress, walking up the stairs and ignoring Morris's pleas for attention.

         Poor Catherine was never taught how to be witty or how to make herself pretty because her mother died when she was so young. People, especially her father, compared Catherine to the idea of what her mother was. Catherine's heart should be enough for anyone to accept her.

Magen Marksberry

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