The Women Need Kindness, not Scorn

     Behold Catherine, Catherine, the governess, Liza, Nora, and Blanche--the leading ladies of the literary and cinematic works of this semester. In every one of them, there was a breaking point that changed their lives, whether it was for the better or worse. But what was it that pushed each lady to this point? Behind them was a recurring theme, and that is a less-than-kind man.

     So what can we infer from such information? If it were not for cruel men, then women would rule the world? I kind of doubt it. In fact I am sure that, if men were kinder to women and not so pushy, then, women would be less harsh on men and less pushy about feminism and other such beliefs.

     In Henry James's 1880 Washington Square and the 1949 movie, The Heiress, directed by William Wyler, if Doctor Sloper (Ralph Richardson) had not told his daughter, Catherine, (Olivia de Havilland) she could not marry Morris (Montgomery Clift), then I feel sure that she would have learned sooner or later that Morris was scum. At the same time, if Morris had truly loved her, then he would not have pushed marriage as hard; and Doctor Sloper would have recognized the true love he had for his daughter and let Morris marry Catherine.

     In George Bernard Shaw's 1913 Pygmalion and the two cinematic adaptations, had Henry praised Liza for her job well done, then she would not have ran away. In both movie versions--the 1938 Pygmalion, directed by Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard, and the 1964 film rendering of Alan J. Lerner's 1956 musical play My Fair Lady, directed by George Cukor--the two Henrys (Leslie Howard and Rex Harrison respectively) are really obnoxious to their Lizas (Wendy Hiller and Audrey Hepburn respectively) during the language lessons and especially after the ball, where she has triumphed and then is ignored.

     In Tennessee Williams' 1947 play and the 1951 movie, A Streetcar Named Desire, directed by Elia Kazan, if it had not been for Stanley's investigating Blanche's background, I am sure she would have married Mitch (Karl Malden) and been kinder to Stanley. As it is Marlon Brando's Stanley is so cruel to Vivien Leigh's Blanche, even raping her, that he drives her further into madness.

     Even in the film, one can see this recurring theme that kindness goes a long way with women. They are only cruel to those that have been cruel to them and kind to those that are kind. The two Colonel Pickerings (Scott Sunderland and Wilfred Hyde-White respectively) treat their Lizas like ladies, who have in turn high respect for the two Colonels. Both Trevor Howard's and Ralph Richardson's Dr. Ranks converse with their Noras (Jane Fonda and Claire Bloom) about everything that crosses their minds, and these men are closer to these women than the women are to their Torvalds (David Warner and Anthony Hopkins).

     What is to be learned from these examples? Men, treat women with a little kindness and respect, and you will be treated as kings because a little kindness goes a long way.

Clint Todd

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