Catherine: Vibrant Woman

         In the 1880 novel, Washington Square, written by Henry James, and the 1949 film The Heiress, directed by William Wyler, the main character Catherine endures many issues and situations that women in today's society deal with and have found solutions from them.

         For example, family betrayal was illustrated between Catherine and her father. Since Dr. Sloper had lost his wife and son, he adversely compared Catherine, ably performed by Olivia de Havilland, as a dumbfounded young female who had no social interaction skills, to his past spouse and betrayed her as a father. In Washington Square, and in The Heiress, it is evident that Dr. Sloper, played by Ralph Richardson, did not care for his only daughter as a normal father would. Ralph Richardson portrayed Dr. Sloper very well in his role of the malicious father. He basically denied Catherine as a daughter because of her relationship with Morris, portrayed by Montgomery Cliff, and her desire to be with him. Dr. Sloper contained hardly any love for her and betrayed Catherine because she was falling for Morris. Nevertheless, Catherine still defiantly continued to date Morris while her father was very irritated with her.

         Another illustration of today's issues is that Morris was not a typical polite and ambitious gentleman. He was indolent and a moocher off his poverty-stricken sister. There are many men who are called smooth talkers, but they are too lazy to do anything for others. Morris was only out for Catherine's wealth, and he wished nothing more to marry her wealth. However, Catherine was attractive to the loser kind of man.

         Another example of society's view on women is they are strongly opinionated. For example, Morris and Catherine's relationship was broken off due to Morris not returning to Washington Square. They were to be married that night, but Morris backed out. This occurrence devastated Catherine, so she became determined to cling to her view of Morris, which was him being a gold digger. Again, Olivia de Havilland, performed an exceptional job with acting as an innocent and non-social skill girl who was transformed later into a strong-minded and powerful lady.

         At the conclusion of the film, any viewer could see the drastic change of Catherine and her demeanor towards Morris when he returned years later. Some viewers and readers might have thought Catherine would return to Morris, with the ending being like a fairy tale. However, Catherine had grown into a dazzling woman and took a strong stand against Morris and rose tall by herself.

         In today's society many women are being the strong ones and backing out of relationships with men who are the Morris character in the movie and novel. Today, Catherine is still felt or seen in almost every woman's personality or lifestyle.

Kyla DeHay

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