Weaving a Tangled Web

         The quotation at the top has to be, hands down, one of my favorite statements of all time. I am unsure of what Sir Walter Scott was insinuating because I have not read Marmion. However, after seeing this as one of our essay choices, I could not help but laugh at how perfect this statement fits several of the situations in both the literature we covered and the films we viewed during the course of the semester.

         If I could be so lucky as to do a presentation relating this statement and the literary works, the first I would choose would be Henry James's Washington Square, filmed in 1949 by William Wyler as The Heiress. When I think about a person weaving a tangled web, I think of the spider-like Morris Townsend (Montgomery Clift). Townsend is quite a little devil. He really thinks he can creep back into the picture after doing Catherine Sloper (Olivia de Havilland) so terribly wrong many years earlier. Townsend really thinks Catherine is so stupid and naïve that she will fall for his dirty little trick twice. We all learn from this book that once people are scarred, they too can have tricks up their sleeves, as is the case with Catherine Sloper.

         Catherine has an abundance of time on her hands to weave her own little web of revenge. The web she weaves is not at all tangled. As a matter of fact, Catherine's embroidery skills must have paid off because her precious web is without flaw. Even though it took some time, Morris ends up tangled in that web, looking like a complete fool.

         Catherine Sloper's shyness fools almost everyone. I think one could go so far as to compare Catherine to the black widow. Indeed, she catches her prey and in some weird way figuratively eats it alive.

         Morris Townsend thinks he is very clever. Clever he may be, but a fiddler spider is no match for a black widow. Actually, calling Morris Townsend a fiddler spider may be giving him too much honor; if he were a spider, I would squash him with my shoe.

         Another prime example of weaving a tangled web is the 1898 novella The Turn of the Screw, also by Henry James, which was filmed in 1961 as The Innocents by Jack Clayton. I am unsure if I would say the children, Miles and Flora, weave a web or if they weave an entire city of deceit and craziness. The children also are like little spiders. Miles and Flora are only part of the craziness, but they add the most intricate pieces to the web.

         It is hard for one to understand how innocent children can be so mean and twisted. However, these children make it perfectly clear that they are weaving this so-called web of deceit. There are many things in life that are weird and twisted, and many times children are right at the core of this madness, as in the case of Miles and Flora.

         There were other characters throughout the semester who had deceitful ways about them. Two other prime characters were Catherine Earnshaw (Merle Oberon) and Heathcliff (Laurence Olivier) from Emily Brontë's 1847 novel, Wuthering Heights, filmed in 1939 by William Wyler. I do not know what they are weaving, but it sure is not happiness. Both Heathcliff and Catherine are so miserable without each other that they try to destroy everyone around them, and that is basically what they do.

         If both Heathcliff and Catherine had followed their hearts instead of looking at what was in their best interest for the time being, they might not have destroyed the lives of everyone around them. Instead, they are both interested in getting back at the other and making each other jealous. Heathcliff and Catherine are guilty of weaving that same little web of deceit as are some of the other characters.

         The lesson to be learned here is to not be spiteful and to follow your heart. If people are too busy weaving webs of spite and deceit, they are too preoccupied to notice their webs are surely crashing down around them. It is true: "Oh what a tangled web we weave/When first we practice to deceive!" It is better to put effort into making the world a better place for those around us than trying to make life harder for everyone else.

Katie Clark

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