The Character You Love to Hate

         If I were to portray a character from one of the assigned literary works on the big screen, I would have to choose Morris from Henry James's 1880 Washington Square, filmed in 1949 as The Heiress by William Wyler. The first question I would expect to hear is "why would you want to play such a hated character?" My response would have to be with another question. "Why wouldn't I?"

         The character of Morris, while not complex, is incredibly intriguing. He, like Heathcliff in Emily Brontė's Wuthering Heights, plays a huge role in the story; but the reader actually knows very little about him. Morris' "mystery" is in no way chilling like Heathcliff's; however, it does make you wonder exactly where he came from before introducing himself to Catherine at that party. Did he fall from heaven? Was he sent from hell to torture her? Was he a stalker of wealth? Any question can be formed to inquire where he came from, but I would be more interested in where he went after Catherine shut him out of her life.

         I would find it challenging to play this role because I am a generally nice person. I believe it would take a lot to make it seem that I wanted someone for her inheritance. But hey, it is money. I am sure I could get into this character.

         Of this entire work I would look forward to two scenes. The first, when Morris and Catherine are discussing her leaving to marry him. Morris tries to get her to stay when he finds out she is actually going to leave. This forces him to stab her in the back painfully rather than the slow, guiltless manner he was going for. The look on his face, in William Wyler's The Heiress, as played by Montgomery Clift, is simply priceless. He has to think quickly to try to get out of this mess.

         The second scene would be Morris' return form California. When Morris has finally realized he has been duped by Catherine it is, to a point, hilarious. He gets exactly what he deserves, and playing that out would be a great experience.

         The traits that go into this role are very well used in Wyler's 1949 film. In the beginning the actor must have a certain boyish charm. Throughout, you must appear ever so innocently devious. And at the end, you must beg for mercy. It makes the reader/viewer ask, "Did he really love her?" I guess we will never know.

Brant Veal

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