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In the 1949 black and white film The Heiress the titular character (Catherine) falls in love with a man (Morris).

Her father who is a doctor finds out from Morris' sister that he is just seeking the money Catherine will inherit after the doctor's death. The doctor warns her daughter about this and Morris' fake love, but she doesn't believe. Of course Catherine has a friendly relationship with her father here. But she started distancing herself from him.

One day Catherine and Morris plan to marry secretly at midnight in a church. Catherine tells Morris to come in front of their house by midnight before telling him she would be disinherited for this. However, Morris doesn't come; proving he was just a gold digger.

Catherine's heart is broken. But her relationship with her father gets cold, upsetting her father.

My question: Why did Catherine have a cold relationship with her father while she realized her father was always right about Morris?

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  • I haven't watched the movie, so this is pure speculation, but in real life it happens quite often that when you find out that a person you don't like has always been right, you end up hating that person even more...
    – mattiav27
    Jun 2, 2023 at 7:13
  • @mattiav27: especially when that person "broke your dreams".
    – OldPadawan
    Jun 4, 2023 at 2:47

1 Answer 1

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Catherine's heart is broken. But her relationship with her father gets cold, upsetting her father.

TL;DR: she has been experiencing what's known as child abuse1. Her behaviour towards her father is the result of him dismissing her feelings, thus causing emotional pain. It resembles contempt.

Catherine Sloper, a naive young woman who falls in love with a handsome young man despite the objections of her emotionally abusive father who suspects the man of being a fortune hunter2

The movie is based upon the 1880 novel Washington Square:

After the deaths of his wife and son, Dr. Sloper raises Catherine with his widowed sister, Mrs. Penniman, who is charged with Catherine's education. Although never disclosed directly to Catherine, the Doctor does not hold her personality or appearance in high regard, finding her a cheap substitute for her mother. This evaluation is never challenged in the narrative and Catherine is depicted as a simple, reserved individual.

Marianna Pogosyan, Ph.D explains the differences between hate, anger, and contempt:

Contempt is the cold version of hate. Like hate, contempt is about who you are, your nature and your personality. When you feel contempt, you tend to feel that they are not even worth your attention, which I think might make it feel worse to be the object of someone’s contempt than it does to be the object of hate. With hate, you cannot be indifferent towards the person. You are more engaged, because you want to get rid of them—whether socially, mentally or physically.

People also hate when they feel powerless. Rather than turning their anxiety and shame inward, they may project that negativity onto an external target.3


1. Emotional abuse, also known as psychological abuse, is a pattern of behavior perpetuated by a parent that causes a child to experience emotional distress, harms their sense of self-worth, and affects their emotional development. Signs and types of emotional abuse from parents

2. The Heiress - 1947 movie

3. Why do people hate?

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