Parental Double Standards

         In the novel Washington Square by Henry James, filmed in 1949 as The Heiress by William Wyler, I saw many things in the parenting of the Doctor (Ralph Richardson) towards Catherine (Olivia de Havilland) that one will often see in the real world not just fiction. The Doctor had so many expectations of Catherine as she was growing up, especially since he had suffered the loss of a son and a wife before her. He wanted Catherine to be attractive and smart, and most of all he wanted her to be clever. He thought that people who were not clever were boring and uninteresting. Parents wanting their child to have positive attributes is a totally normal thing that should be expected, but oftentimes what parents want for in their child is not necessarily at all what they want in the way of a spouse for their child.

         Dr. Sloper wanted so much from Catherine; and she never really completely met his expectations; but, when she found a man that one would think that the Doctor would absolutely love, he hated him. Morris Townsend came into Catherine's life, and she fell totally in love with him. Especially as portrayed by Montgomery Clift, he was attractive, and clever, the attributes that Catherine's father had wanted most out of her. In a couple of ways it seems ironic to me that Catherine did love Morris. First, he was the complete opposite of her father, but yet he was exactly what her father had wanted out of her. Second, I found it strange that, despite the fact that the Doctor had always preached that he wanted Catherine to be attractive and clever, he did not want Morris, who was both, to be anywhere near his daughter.

         I found this novel and its film version interesting just because it was easy to see how the problems that were suffered in it were all so realistic. Parents in novels, movies, and real life really are interesting characters with double standard. What they want really is questionable since, when their children find it, many times their opinions change. It turns out that what they want in their own child is not at all what they appreciate in someone else's.

Tiffany Deese

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