Strength through Suffering

     Too often in life an individual is forced with the decision of reuniting with a loved one that performed a wrongdoing or spending life alone and in solitude without any source of affection. These circumstances are usually found in individuals who do not possess any sort of attractiveness but do have a characteristic that makes them desirable to one individual only. This was the case in William Wyler's The Heiress, the 1949 movie based on Henry James's 1880 novel, Washington Square, as Morris desired Catherine solely for her inheritance.

     Catherine (Olivia de Havilland) represented weak and unattractive girls in nineteenth-century society. She was insecure and easily manipulated by simple actions. Morris (Montgomery Clift) quickly discovered this and took advantage of the situation. Because of her low self-esteem, Catherine was easily convinced into believing that Morris had truly fallen in love with her rather than her money. However, the series of wrongdoings by those around and closest to Catherine would eventually help her mature and gain a new sense of intelligence.

     The best decision Catherine made came in the last scene of the film as she refused to allow Morris back in her life. But, it was a series of incidents by Catherine's father (Ralph Richardson) that led up to the situation that gave her the knowledge to reject him. The first was Catherine's realization that her father would always resent her due to her mother's death. The doctor had always set expectations for Catherine that did not meet her needs but rather made her seem more like her mother. These fallacies in the doctor's personality were eventually exposed to Catherine and made her a stronger, more independent individual. In fact, the doctor's false love for Catherine is what gave her the strength to overcome Morris upon his return.

     Even though Catherine was forced to overcome situations that many individuals do not ever have to face, it helped her become strong-minded and independent. She might have put herself in a situation forcing her to spend life alone, but that is a more contented situation than the one she would have been in with Morris as her husband.

Craig Sam Aguiar

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