The Heiress : Dr. Sloper a terrible parent

Dr. Sloper a terrible parent

The doctor was about as emotionally abusive as it's possible for any parent to be.

Constantly comparing a daughter unfavorably to her deceased mother is cruel.

I think he got what he deserved at the end when Catherine refused to go to his deathbed: "It's too late!"

Re: Dr. Sloper a terrible parent

Can't say I disagree. As a father, Dr. Sloper is an utter disgrace. He refuses to let go of the idealized memory of his dead wife and demands that Catherine take her place. He views Catherine not with love, patience and tolerance, but with disdain and embarrassment. The scene that really raises my hackles is when he finally unleashes his vile opinions of Catherine to her face when she insists on marrying Morris.

Now, Morris is a selfish, opportunistic fortune hunter. He is cruelly toying with the emotions of an innocent woman starving for praise and affection. He has every intention of marrying her only for her money and squandering it, the way he squandered his inheritance. In short, Morris is a villain. No dispute about that.

But what does Dr. Sloper do? He attacks CATHERINE!! She is the blameless victim, but he makes this whole situation HER FAULT!! He actually tells his daughter what a pathetic failure she is just because she is not as talented and pretty as he expects her to be and because she has the misfortune of falling in love with a weasel like Morris!

So yes, Dr. Sloper is a terrible parent and a terrible person. He dies alone, and good riddance to him!!

"Will you stop feeling sorry for yourself?! It's bad for your complexion!"-"Sixteen Candles"

Re: Dr. Sloper a terrible parent


Dr. Sloper's treatment of his own daughter was reprehensible. But Catherine says that she never realized her father's disdain as a child. She had a happy childhood despite having lost her mother. But it just seemed that Dr. Sloper was free to continue with his horrible treatment of Catherine. Who was going to stop him? His wife was dead, Catherine didn't take notice and her aunts never seem to have any influence on Dr. Sloper's ways. Now Morris comes into the picture and upsets their whole relationship. Finally Catherine "sees" that her father doesn't love her and worse never loved her. I always thought the losing of her father's love was more devastating to Catherine than losing Morris' love.

Still after all that Catherine has gone through, I would have thought it would have been a better thing for Catherine if she had gone to her father's death bed. But I can see why she couldn't go or wouldn't go and be with him for those last few moments.

Re: Dr. Sloper a terrible parent


But Catherine says that she never realized her father's disdain as a child. She had a happy childhood despite having lost her mother.

I don't think she had a happy childhood; I think she simply didn't question it bc it was all she knew. If you grew up, pre-cars and pre-TV and without books, in a village with only white people, you'd assume that the world was white. What's that saying about the goldfish in the bowl who says "What bowl?" We take our environment at face value.


I always thought the losing of her father's love was more devastating to Catherine than losing Morris' love.

That's a very powerful insight; thank you.

"All you need to start an asylum is an empty room and the right kind of people."

Re: Dr. Sloper a great parent

OK, I'll try again.

Most posters here, unfortunately, see the Doctor as the villain. To me he is admirable. The comments below are from some past posts here of mine.

OK, so the Doctor insults Catherine ONCE in a tirade. (A few other slights are explainable in the Doctors' favor.) He was exasperated and reached the breaking point -- he had taken her to Europe to forget Morris, and she still said she was going to marry him. The Doctor said that "for months" he made an effort "not to be unkind" to Catherine, but then let it all out in that one scene -- that she has nothing to offer a man other than money, that she only embroiders well. Big deal, so he made a mistake there, but he said the truth about Morris, which Catherine was blind to see (she once said something obtuse like "I am everything he wants in a woman"). She was a grown woman. She had a mind and experiences with many people in her circle. Why couldn't she be understanding of her father's exasperation? Anyway, in the very next scene with her, the Doctor corrects his heated remarks: Catherine tells the Doctor that Morris deserted her, not the other way around. The Doctor then tells Catherine that Morris is a scoundrel she is fortunate to be rid of. The Doctor says: "you'll find some honest, decent man some day;" "You have many fine qualities;" that her fortune will make "it possible to choose [a husband] with discretion." " That seems OK to me. What more could he have said? Meanwhile, her boycotting her dying father is horrible and unforgivable.

(The other scene where the Doctor was harsh to Catherine:in the red dress scene, he says "but your mother was fair and dominated the color..." Harsh, I'll admit, but before that, in the same scene, he was gracious and told Catherine that she is "never a disturbing person" when she wants to see him and asks "Am I disturbing you, Father?" When he sees her in the dress, he says,"Is it possible this magnificent person is my daughter?. .... .... You are sumptuous, opulent. ... ... ... Look like a person with an $80,000 income!" Only when Catherine and Lavinia bring up the subject of the late mother and red did the Doctor make the unkind remark.)

(Also the Doctor spent much time trying to instruct Catherine himself and in showering her with outside socializing influences (best instructors, family, etc.) He implored family members to socialize her, accompany her about and beseeching her to join in on their doings. He could see that she was a "social mess" and tried every way he knew to correct it. This shows the Doctor's concern for his daughter. Also, with all the outside influences on her, it is hard to blame the Doctor for how she turned out.

Sorry for the long post. It makes me madder the more I see this great movie. To me the Doctor is the best person in the movie, and both Morris and Catherine are horrible people. On one hand we have the Doctor -- OK, so he is a little cold and sarcastic. So he expects too much of dull, introverted Catherine; he should have finally given up trying to socialize her long ago, I guess, and loved her unconditionally. But any normal parent would be concerned about and eager to educate such a shy child, who had to be unhappy with such shyness, withdrawal and awkwardness. That showed some love. I don't think he hated her or even came close to that.

Re: Dr. Sloper a great parent

"OK, I'll try again"

Yes I remember and appreciate this discussion when I first saw this movie and visited the board. Agree the doctor's character must be viewed as multifaceted and cannot be taken solely at 'face value'.

For a truly 'bad parent' try "The Barretts of Wimpole Street" from 1934, a movie which is, if I'm not mistaken, taken from real life.

"A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five."

Re: Dr. Sloper a great parent

You keep rehashing the same "points" and I shoot them down as usual.

You obviously don't understand that story telling is about showing the norm of a situation in as few strokes as possible. The scene with the dress wasn't one incident. It is how you tell a story by showing the patterns of key relationships as quickly as possible before you begin the story proper so you understand what the conflicts will be. It is by showing that every attempt to get some kind of approval from her father is shot down with a "... but your mother" put down. Catherine's final, sarcastic, "Perhaps in this you won't compare me to Mother" shows this as well as Aunt Penniman's warning to the Doctor that he had built his wife into a pink plaster saint.

Dr Sloper's final praise about "fine qualities" is a dying man trying to get some sympathy from a daughter he never cared much for. And his belated respect for having stood up to him. She spoke to him in the only language he understood. Sardonic condescencion. And once she did all his magisterial sarcasm was over.

The point you seem incapable of grasping is that Dr Sloper was like a baseball dad who demands that his child fulfill totally unrealistic expectations and despises his failure to do so. That is a bad parent. A parent is supposed to offer love and support, not bloated expectations that can never be met.

The bigger point you seem incapable of grasping is that when Catherine finally says, "If you couldn't love me you could have given someone else the opportunity to try !", does Dr Sloper deny one word of it ? Does he have the gall to pretend that he ever loved Catherine ? No. She spoke the unvarnished truth and he cannot pretend otherwise. A father who loved his child would be hurt and horrified at such an accusation. A father who loved his daughter, which is what a father is supposed to do whether his daughter is pretty and charming or not, would defend himself. Dr Sloper cannot.

Dr Sloper wanted to mold Catherine into a replacement wife. That is a very, very, bad father. In fact, it is sick and twisted. No father should EVER do that. There was nothing in the least loving concern about his actions. It was entirely manipulation to serve his own emotional needs.

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Your points keep coming up again and again. I admit and say that the Doctor had flaws, but so did Catherine. I stand by what I wrote. The Doctor was more wealthy than Catherine. If he hated her as much as you say, you'd think he'd be glad to be rid of Catherine, maybe even enjoy seeing her in an unhappy marriage. But he knew Morris was bad for Catherine, so he objected and tried to reason with her. I'm sure he wouldn't object to another man's attentions -- an honest, unpretentious man.

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He objected to Morris blowing his money and living large in his house. Morris by marrying Catherine stood to inherit the Dr's wealth and Dr Sloper detested the thought of this male Anna Nicole Smith enjoying the fruits of his labors.

Dr Sloper's attempt to 'reason' with Catherine consisted of what a total idiot she was for thinking that a handsome man could ever be attracted to her. Or anyone else for that matter. NO FATHER'S LOVE FOR HIS DAUGHTER SHOULD EVER BE CONDITIONAL ON HER BEING A BABE. NO FATHER SHOULD EVER LOVE HIS DAUGHTER MORE OR LESS DEPENDING ON HOW HOT SHE IS.

Catherine's only flaw was not being babe enough for her father. And only a very, very bad, selfish, sick, and twisted "father" should ask his daughter to be a replacement wife. This is not 'faults'. It is being as a father bad to the bone.

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Furthermore, when Dr. Sloper is "reasoning" with Catherine, why does he make this whole situation HER FAULT??? Catherine has done NOTHING wrong. Yes, she had the misfortune of falling for a skunk like Morris, but for God's sake she's HUMAN. If you spent your life being criticized and belittled by your father, wouldn't you fall madly in love with someone who showered you with complements?
And when Dr. Sloper finishes his tirade, does he show any pang of remorse? Is he shocked by his own behavior? No, he just saunters away, smug as ever. He doesn't notice or care that his daughter is wounded by his cruel words. This whole mess is Morris's fault, but Dr. Sloper blames Catherine just because.

So many people like to pick on Catherine because she's considered plain and boring. Based on what? Everyone can't be pretty, vivacious and accomplished. Some of us just make the best of what we're given.
But look at all the famous literary heroines who are lacking one way or the other. Jane Eyre, for instance, is famously plain, but she's also strong and virtuous. Hermione Granger is studious and introverted, but also brave and loyal. Elizabeth Bennett is not "accomplished" but she's outspoken, funny, and independent.
Catherine is sweet and good, and, in the right company, funny and witty. But living with her father has made her so self-critical that she can't help but come off as awkward and shy. She believes she isn't good enough because dear old Dad keeps telling her so.

"Will you stop feeling sorry for yourself?! It's bad for your complexion!"-"Sixteen Candles"

Re: Dr. Sloper a great parent

When Catherine admits to Dr Sloper that her music teacher has told her that she has no ear for music, Dr Sloper sneers, "Nonsense. Your mother had a fine musical talent."

Well, what does that have to do with Catherine ? Some people have musical talent and most don't. You're not a better or worse person for it. It shows that Dr Sloper only values Catherine to the extent that she is exactly like his idealized image of her mother. Dr Sloper is the worst sort of parent. One who refuses to accept his child as being her own person, not a miniature replica of her mother. Not something that exists to fulfill his baseball dad expectations. Because he wanted Catherine to become a replacement wife he judged her by wife criteria. He demanded that Catherine be beautiful and vivacious and charming. His love was conditional upon that. No father's love for his daughter should EVER be conditional on how much of a babe she is.

Re: Dr. Sloper a great parent


Catherine is sweet and good, and, in the right company, funny and witty. But living with her father has made her so self-critical that she can't help but come off as awkward and shy. She believes she isn't good enough because dear old Dad keeps telling her so.


I agree that living with such a relentlessly critical father is what made her so mouselike and "dull," and at times infuriatingly victim-like and blind. The last part of your first sentence is very telling: that she was able to feel free enough to at times be funny and witty with others, away from her father and distracted from his critical voice she'd internalized.

I don't call him evil; I think that's too simplistic for such a finely and subtly written character -- as they all were, but particularly Dr. Sloan. He never could forgive her for losing his wife, whom he clearly loved, through the birth of this daughter he found so wanting -- ironically, largely due to his treatment of her.

I don't think he hated her though, and I do think in his own messed-up mind he thought he was protecting her from making a very serious mistake in marrying Morris. And, as we know, and later so did she, he was right. A bitter pill to swallow.

Re: Dr. Sloper AN ABOMINABLE parent


The Doctor was more wealthy than Catherine. If he hated her as much as you say, you'd think he'd be glad to be rid of Catherine, maybe even enjoy seeing her in an unhappy marriage.

No no no no no no no no NO. Dr. S. hated his daughter for "killing" his wife (she died in childbirth) and has been punishing her since infancy. He could see that Morris was the one source of joy, ever, in his daughter's life, so he was determined to extinguish it.

He was an awful, punitive, cold, manipulative, and emotionally/psychologically underdeveloped human. He fits the profile of narcissistic personality disorder: No empathy for anyone else; viewing others in terms of how they contribute to his prestige and sense of self.

To say that "he had flaws but so did Catherine" is nonsense. Of course she had flaws, as does every human. But she was not a pathologically destructuve monster.

"All you need to start an asylum is an empty room and the right kind of people."

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You are absolutely right and said what I wanted to say and more. It's called story-telling and the director did an excellent job with a minimum of hashing, rehashing, and broadcasting fine points like directors do nowadays. It should have been instantly understood by his smiling ease at sarcastically praising her in one breathe and smilingly condemning her in the next that he was emotionally abusive. He may never have thought of himself that way. But if you've ever been emotionally abused, you almost wish the person would just slap you in front of everyone because nobody believes that whoever the a-hole is who is abusive could be doing any such thing. They are always polite until they are tormenting you and then looking astonished at your hysterics or mistaken perceptions of what they meant. He was cruel and condescending and she had years of his soul crushing. She may have been more outgoing had he delighted in her innocent naivety. Instead he was trying to force her personality into a smooth sophisticate. In that society, women would have nothing going for them but beauty, some social talent (piano playing, speaking French), and social graces. He had one child to cherish after his wife's death and instead he made her into the shy mouse he despised.

Re: Dr. Sloper WAS AN ABOMINABLE PARENT


It's called story-telling and the director did an excellent job with a minimum of hashing, rehashing, and broadcasting fine points like directors do nowadays. It should have been instantly understood by his smiling ease at sarcastically praising her in one breathe and smilingly condemning her in the next that he was emotionally abusive.

Well said.


But if you've ever been emotionally abused, you almost wish the person would just slap you in front of everyone because nobody believes that whoever the a-hole is who is abusive could be doing any such thing. They are always polite until they are tormenting you
VERY WELL SAID.

I feel sad for those who continue to defend Dr. Sloper or see him as an admirable father, because only a person who is still in denial about being emotionally abused, or about being an emotional abuser, could fail to see him as he is.

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No - Dr. Sloper is NOT admirable.

He made his daughter feel like so much sh*t under his shoe? That's admirable? I think not.

"To me the Doctor is the best person in the movie"

You were not watching the same movie as the rest of us were...or you think cruelty is the way to raise a child.

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His daughter was a thick-skulled dullard who needed a serious talking to. He provided it. He saved her from Morris, (you know, the one you're rooting against at the end) but neither you, nor she, can get over that stern lecture.
He was a responsible father.

Catherine is an exasperating daughter. Her life breaks up into two halves; the hopeless and thoughtless half where she's a social misfit, and the resentment-fuled half after pop's reality check allows her to become a self-righteous shrew. These are her two lousy choices about how to encounter life.

Catherine blows it.

Re: Dr. Sloper a LOUSY parent

He wanted a decorative little object he could show off. Well, young women are not objects - either then or now. They are people, individuals who should respected as such.

Katherine was NOT an extension of him...or a showpiece for his vanity ("See what a pretty THING I MADE!").

The comparing her with her mother was cruel...and more than a little sick.

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No. he was a cold heartless azz who was the WORST person in the film. Dr. Sloper was even worse than Morris because his treatment of Catherine for her whole life was what made her being taken in by Morris even possible. At least Morris gave her positive feedback something her father never did. Also the Dr. even brought about his own death by insisting on taking Catherine to Europe and away from Morris. The doctor has absolutely no socially redeeming qualities whatsoever.

Siri

Don't Make Me Have to Release the Flying Monkeys!


Re: Dr. Sloper a great parent

Long and great post!

Re: Dr. Sloper a great parent

thanks. We stand a lone.

Re: Dr. Sloper a terrible parent

He is harsh because he is continually grieving, because to him, Catherine is a continual reminder that he was unable to save the lives of his wife and son (in the book).

He was a wealthy, successful doctor in the late Victorian era, a well-known and brilliant surgeon (again, in the book, this is a harsh irony he faces in light of the loss of his wife and son), a teaching doctor, and a member of numerous institutions and boards. He is a martinet about manners and propriety, runs his household like a well-tuned machine, and does not know how to be a loving or indulgent father because his wife was probably the nurturing parent.
In the film, there is such a contrast between his attitude toward his daughter and the loving manner his brother-in-law toasts his newly-engaged daughter.

The one person who annoys me in the film is Aunt Penniman. She acts as though Morris is courting her instead of Catherine and her manner toward him is almost flirtatious. It's as though she is competing with her niece for Morris's attention at times.


"...truth against the world..." - attributed to Boudicca of the Iceni

Re: Dr. Sloper a terrible parent

The one person who annoys me in the film is Aunt Penniman. She acts as though Morris is courting her instead of Catherine and her manner toward him is almost flirtatious. It's as though she is competing with her niece for Morris's attention at times.


I couldn't stomach her, either. Then again, Miriam Hopkins has always annoyed me. I can see why Bette Davis disliked her.

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I agree TCall. Hopkins and Davis made a couple of films together, and in "The Old Maid" you can almost see the waves of dislike between them.

One thing about Catherine in the film - she was tenacious. And she really cut her father no slack at all at the end. For however any of us views him, he was essentially right about Morris. Yes he was blunt but he was a man who cut to the chase in general.

When Catherine was sitting in Washington Square Park and refused to go to his deathbed, that scene upset me a little. She had always been a dutiful daughter, but once he crossed her by not doting on Morris as she had, she was as stubborn as a mule.


"...truth against the world..." - attributed to Boudicca of the Iceni

Re: Dr. Sloper a terrible parent

Ritamilo wrote, "When Catherine was sitting in Washington Square Park and refused to go to his deathbed, that scene upset me a little. She had always been a dutiful daughter, but once he crossed her by not doting on Morris as she had, she was as stubborn as a mule."

Nonsense. Her anger had nothing in the least to do with Dr Sloper not doting on Morris. It had to do with his finally telling her the truth about how much he has always despised her for not being the babe he wanted her to be. He despised her for not being hot like her mother which is completely and utterly wrong. No father's love for his daughter should in any way, shape, or form be contingent on how hot his daughter is. A FATHER WHO DEMANDS A HOT DAUGHTER DOES NOT UNDERSTAND THAT HIS DAUGHTER IS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE HIS FANTASY GIRLFRIEND. AND ALL HER LIFE DR SLOPER HAD TRIED TO GROOM CATHERINE INTO BEING A REPLACEMENT WIFE, A REPLICA OF HIS IDEALIZED IMAGE OF HER MOTHER.

Both Dr Sloper and Morris sought to use Catherine to their own ends. Neither loved her or gave a damn about protecting her. It is a wonderful thing that Catherine had her revenge against both these masters in cruelty.

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He emphatically did not want a babe for a daughter - and truly, no need to "yell" in caps. In Dr. Sloper's eyes, no one could ever have replaced his wife - that was his point and he did not expect anyone to replace her. His memories of her gave him a terrible yardstick for measuring his daughter's growth and maturity and in any comparison she would have fallen short. His hope was that her Aunt Penniman could teach her some feminine graces and wiles. In that era, a woman's duty was perceived to be marriage and having children. Catherine was not attractive to people of her own age; she probably would have made an excellent wife for an older man, or perhaps even a widower with children of his own. She was the type of woman who is somewhat gawky in youth but blossoms as she matures.

I agree that he and Morris used her for their own ends. But Dr. Sloper knew Morris was a fortune hunter; but when he told her that Morris was worthless, she did not break off her engagement - the first sign of rebellion from her. She saw something in him at that point and while she was still dutiful, she did not strive to appease him, either. Even when he brought Morris's sister to meet her, Catherine was intractable.

In Paris, when he asked her if she had given up Morris and she said she didn't, he knew she'd never change. He did not "tell her off" until the last portion of the film and she called his bluff about disinheriting her.

But he did not want a replica or a replacement of his late wife. No one measured up to her. I always felt that he wanted Catherine married off and "out of his hair" so to speak. But I strongly disagree that he wanted her to replace her late mother.



"...truth against the world..." - attributed to Boudicca of the Iceni

Re: Dr. Sloper a terrible parent

Did Dr Sloper not say that he hoped that Catherine would grow up to fill the void in his life that he lost when his wife died ?

And the lessons and grooming were all about raising his idealized image of her mother from the dead. Like when Catherine said her music instructor told her she was tone deaf he sneered, "Nonsense. Your mother had a fine musical ear.". Well, what does that have to do with Catherine except to indicate that he is specifically grooming her to be a replacement for her mother ? Her mother was a babe. He demands that Catherine be a babe as well and despises her because she is not.

Thanks to her father, Catherine is so starved for affection that she has no defenses against the first man to show her any approval. She is so desperate and needy that she cannot defend herself.

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Filling a void from his own loneliness is NOT the same as turning her into, to use your words, "a hot babe." His hope was that Catherine would be able to at least converse with him in that hour or two after dinner spent in the drawing room/parlor.

His wife was beautiful, accomplished and bright. She was a companion to him and probably could hold her own in any conversation. Her memory meant everything to him, to the point where he puts her framed picture into his pocket before he goes up to his deathbed.

Wanting his daughter to be accomplished like her mother is not a bad thing, to hope that she might become someone with whom he could discuss appropriate issues of the day, books, theatre, etc. He had no patience with his sister Lavinia, and considered her a frivolous creature, yet he specifically asked her to extend her "visit" because he saw her flirtatiousness and animation as things that might help Catherine shed her painful shyness.

[u]Grooming her to be as accomplished like her mother, however, is not the same as replacing her mother because he always believed he could never replace her.[/u] I am sure he could have remarried at any time and there had to be numerous eligible women who would have married him in a second, but the memory of his wife was stronger than anything else.

He despises Catherine's dullness and also her apparent lack of wanting to better herself. Naturally he will compare Catherine's mode of dress, modesty and crippling shyness to her mother's vivaciousness and of course, she will never measure up to her mother. He used her mother's perfection as a yardstick by which he measured Catherine, and she never ever came close, in his eyes.

Henry James makes this very apparent in the book. Dr. Sloper has a sense of inadequacy in that while a brilliant doctor, he could not save the lives of his wife and son.

"...truth against the world..." - attributed to Boudicca of the Iceni

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Re: Dr. Sloper a terrible parent

I saw a revival of the Heiress on Broadway in the 1990's and there was a line that never made it into the film. It takes place after the terrible scene between them after they return from Europe. She mentions that her father was right about Morris not loving her and being a fortune hunter. She was not angry about that so much as her realization that he did not think that Morris loved her because he did not believe that anyone could love her. That is what takes the doctor's fears about Morris into the emotionally abusive.

Re: Dr. Sloper a terrible parent

I've noticed that aside from being cruel and emotionally abusive, Dr. Sloper is an utter hypocrite in that he has no more social graces than Catherine does. Think about it: Catherine, in a loving gesture, buys him fish to go with his favorite chowder, and instead of simply saying "thank you", he lectures her about how she shouldn't have carried it in herself. At the engagement party, instead of talking about pleasant things or happy he is for Catherine's cousin, he bitches about what a disappointment Catherine is and how she doesn't compare to his damn dead wife. He invites Morris's sister to his house only to interrogate her and to make Catherine look bad. He knows Morris is a scumbag with horrible intentions, but he attacks Catherine because she's a meek woman who's unlikely to talk or fight back.

With a role model like that, is it any wonder Catherine doesn't thrive socially?

"Will you stop feeling sorry for yourself?! It's bad for your complexion!"-"Sixteen Candles"

Re: Dr. Sloper a terrible parent

he attacks Catherine because she's a meek woman who's unlikely to talk or fight back.
by - lauraeileen894
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I think the doctor would probably be delighted if his meek, mousy, unworldly daughter fought back. She's been given money, connections, a beautiful home... every conceivable benefit in life, but she fails to thrive.

Re: Dr. Sloper a terrible parent

I feel that Dr Sloper was fond of Catherine, and within the constraints of the time they lived in he tried to show his affection as best he could.
It's fair to say that she disappointed him though, as he often spoke disparagingly towards her to his sisters.."an entirely mediocre,and defenceless creature with not a shred of poise". But apart from the odd occasion when he showed a lack of discretion, he never spoke unkindly to Catherine.

Yes, he was rather a cold, stern figure, but he was a well respected doctor, a hard working man. It was quite understandable that he would not want to see Catherine taken in by this charlatan...because Morris is the villain here, for all his charms.

I felt that Catherines bitterness towards her father, although understandable, was also fuelled by the understanding that she now knows what Morris is, and hates her father for being right about him.

The fact is, the doctor did not change his will near the end, even when Catherine told him she might take his money and squander it on Morris.
Maybe this shows that he deeply cared for his daughter, and wanted her to be happy whatever the outcome...


Re: Dr. Sloper a terrible parent


I think the doctor would probably be delighted if his meek, mousy, unworldly daughter fought back. She's been given money, connections, a beautiful home... every conceivable benefit in life, but she fails to thrive.

She hasn't been given every benefit. She has been denied the crucial one: a parent who treasures her, treats her tenderly, treats her as a person of worth, and thereby ENCOURAGES her to develop whatever gifts she has. Had she been raised by both parents, or by her mother alone, or even by Aunt Penniman, she would have been an entirely person. Nature PLUS nurture determines how we turn out.

Re: Dr. Sloper a terrible parent

her embroidery is such an innocent past time done only for the sake of
simple pleasure and simple beauty
by - skwirl60646

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Not quite. Unmarried women embroidered in the 19th century because the pieces would be displayed around the house to demonstrate her household skills (and value) to potential suitors. It was essentially a resume.
as in "Please take my daughter off my hands... Look, at how well she can sew for you!"

The word "spinster" comes from toiling over a spinning wheel (yarn/thread making device); an unmarried life filled with fund-raising drudgery, when a woman had no husband to support her.

Re: Dr. Sloper a terrible parent

I freely admit that I skimmed some of the argument above. But I think that seeing value in Dr. Sloper because he suspects Morris and seems to want to protect Catherine misses the point.

Dr. Sloper is either a man with no social skills, who is blind to his own cruelty, or a sly SOB who knows just what he's doing.

I suspect the latter. Why would he do that? Maybe it gives him pleasure. Maybe it's an expression of his guilt a/o resentment of Catherine's birth for his wife's death. Maybe he's just an utter control freak. Maybe he sees her only value as being a spinster who will care for him in his old age and is afraid to let her get away.

But I think there's no question that his words and actions are cruel -- sometimes he is more subtle than others, sometimes he sets her up with seeming compliments then knocks her down, but he is cruel.

In fact, I think the occasional compliment or smattering of normal conversation is all the more proof of his cruelty -- it is a common tactic among verbally abusive people. He draws her out just enough to find a vulnerable spot to shoot down. He is a very manipulative man.

And maybe he needs to be subtle, because he sees her potential to stop being a doormat, if somebody else ever squeezes in there to give her some confidence.

It is combination of her father's finally being more direct in his insults, while she still believes that Morris sees her real worth, that gives her the strength to give up altogether on her father, without a look back.

The tragedy here is that Catherine is caught between a rock and a hard place -- Morris is faking it, but his actions and words give her a sense that she has value and is loveable. When this one person who has given her confidence is proven false, it seems to prove her father right, not only about Morris, but about her being someone that nobody could ever love or desire, and utterly without worth.

But life isn't either-or -- the conflicting opinions of only two people should not be one's only choices. That's her tragedy.

When she finally "finds her tongue," as her father puts it, she points out that living with Morris, who didn't love her, would not be any worse than living with her father, who didn't love her.

But the lack of love, and encouragement, from her father, came during the years that helped to shape her. He was cold and cruel to a child, and created a nervous mess, who became a hard and embittered young woman when she realized that she was between that rock and hard place. His crime is no less than Morris', I think.

Had he helped her blossom into who she could have been, they might have had a wink and a smile over Morris and his fortune-hunting -- not because she was so undesirable, but because they'd discussed the possibility that even lovely women with money needed to watch out for such things, and because she knew she deserved a better man.

By the end, is she so utterly crippled by all of this that she has no life, no personality, no joy? Hard to say -- she shows what seems real joy in her visiting family as they get into the carriage and seems honest when she smiles and says she likes the Square.

But she does that hesitating walk away from the camera that seems to be "cinema code" for hiding her sad feelings. She is cynical about her maid's compliment only being a precursor to a request.

She says she can be very cruel, because she has been taught by masters (meaning Dad and Morris). Her cruelty, like Morris' and, occasionally, her father's is passive-aggressive. She just lets him stay on the doorstep, banging and yelling.

Does she go on to have a good life and do good in the world, or does she continue to be bitter and mean? Hard to say from this version. The 1997 film showed the character using the house as a school, seemingly busy and happy, if I remember correctly.

I've never read the book, so I don't know if Catherine's taking the bull by the horns and redefining what life should be is up for interpretation or not.

But there is no question in my mind that the beginning of her tragedy and pain came from her father's treatment of her.

Re: Dr. Sloper a terrible parent

Yes, Dr. Sloper was right about Morris, but it is his fault that his daughter couldn't see it too.

If Catherine had received the love and support of her father throughout her childhood and adulthood, she might not have been so eager to fall for the first man who showed her any attention. When the person closest to you refuses to tell you how lovely you are, that he loves you and holds you up on a pedastal, it is only natural to be attracted by someone who finally does, even if it is all lies.

His constantly putting her down was difficult to watch. When he told her what he really thought of her, she no longer could deny that her father had no real love or respect for her. That realization made her want to run to Morris even more. Thank goodness Morris' greed made him stay away long enough for her to see through him as well.

The aunt really bugs me too. She spent time with Morris while Catherine was away and knew he was a golddigger, yet she still encouraged Catherine to go off with him.

However, considering she came for a visit and never left, she isn't much better than Morris is, except she is a relative that actually loves Catherine.

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Re: Dr. Sloper a terrible parent

As much as I'm an advocate for children who've suffered abuse empowering themselves and not feeling enslaved by some sense of "family" and "obedience" to continue to suffer at the hands of their parents in order to 'respect' elders and all this crap (really, I think it's nonsense if you're continuing to let yourself get f-ed up and abused)...I actually did find it pretty harsh that she didn't even visit him on his deathbed. I mean he was a stuck up dick, and consistently had this way of treating her as if she was beneath what he ever wanted, and the constant seething disapproval that she didn't live up to the mom...etc... but...I don't know. I didn't see him AS bad as I've seen other parents. On the Now Voyager board, some were comparing the abusive parents of these two movies. I definitely would say the mom in Now Voyager was way worse than this dad, and I was cheering her on when she stood up against that selfish, manipulative, abusive wench.

But I kind of thought...although the doctor dad here was really distant and unloving and certainly perpetuated her low-self-worth and crushed her spirits, at least a part of him was looking out for her best interest.

I don't know.

Re: Dr. Sloper a terrible parent

He was just so blunt and abusive when he told her that she was a nothing, that I feel as if she was justified in doing what she did afterward. I probably would have done the same. I am stubborn.

Re: Dr. Sloper a terrible parent

the way I see it is every parent at some point will hurt their child. It's just the way it is. At times they won't mean to and at other's they will. But most of us tend to forgive them even if they hurt us. And that's because, deep down we know that they love us and they want the best for us. And that's Sloper's biggest sin. He's not a bad man. He's charming and intelligent. He loved his wife and he is tolerant of his silly sister BUT he is a terrible father and that's because he does not love her. There is nothing worse then that.

The only way I can judge him is by thinking of what my own father would tell me in this situation. Yes, he would probably be angry and even harsh and probably his words would hurt me but at the end he would tell me something like this: "look, I know he's handsome and charming and I know you're not used to the attention of a man like that or any man for that matter. But the truth is he only wants your money. He does not love you. I know that on some level you believe that it will not matter and that your money is a fair trade for his 'atributes' but YOU deserve better. You deserve a man who will love you for what you are and in time you will find him. Whatever you decide I will still be your father and I will love you but I think you're making a huge mistake".

That was ALL he needed to say but he didn't and he didn't because deep down he doesn't believe Catherine will be loved by anyone because he couldn't manage it. I think he somehow believes that because Morris is charming and handsome he is, without a doubt, Catherine's superior and as such SHE is not good enough for him. He has, in a way, given up on Catherine and that is the one thing a good parent could never do.

ask the spokesperson, I don't have a brain

Re: Dr. Sloper a terrible parent

loredanaghidarcea said:

"the way I see it is every parent at some point will hurt their child. It's just the way it is. At times they won't mean to and at other's they will. But most of us tend to forgive them even if they hurt us. And that's because, deep down we know that they love us and they want the best for us. And that's Sloper's biggest sin. He's not a bad man. He's charming and intelligent. He loved his wife and he is tolerant of his silly sister BUT he is a terrible father and that's because he does not love her. There is nothing worse then that.

The only way I can judge him is by thinking of what my own father would tell me in this situation. Yes, he would probably be angry and even harsh and probably his words would hurt me but at the end he would tell me something like this: "look, I know he's handsome and charming and I know you're not used to the attention of a man like that or any man for that matter. But the truth is he only wants your money. He does not love you. I know that on some level you believe that it will not matter and that your money is a fair trade for his 'atributes' but YOU deserve better. You deserve a man who will love you for what you are and in time you will find him. Whatever you decide I will still be your father and I will love you but I think you're making a huge mistake".

YES. That is EXACTLY what Dr. Sloper should have said. Any good parent would have stressed their concern for their child and assure them that they could do better. Instead, Dr. Sloper twisted the situation to make it seem like Catherine's, not Morris's, fault.

It was not Catherine's fault that she fell in love with someone who wasn't good enough for her. It's happened to nearly all of us at some point in our lives. Catherine couldn't help herself; she was lonely, insecure, and knew that one day it would be even harder to get a husband. So, yes, she fell for Morris the first class rat bastard. If Dr. Sloper had any capacity for empathy, he'd have understood why. Instead, he just assumed she was being a silly, stupid ninny and decided to cruelly lecture her.

"Will you stop feeling sorry for yourself?! It's bad for your complexion!"-"Sixteen Candles"

Re: Dr. Sloper a terrible parent

blacknyellowsquid,

As much as I'm an advocate for children who've suffered abuse empowering themselves and not feeling enslaved by some sense of "family" and "obedience" to continue to suffer at the hands of their parents in order to 'respect' elders and all this crap (really, I think it's nonsense if you're continuing to let yourself get f-ed up and abused)

People in such situations don't "continue to let themselves" get f'ed and abused. What happens is that it takes an incredibly long time for the abused person even to understand that it was abuse, partly bc humans are hard-wired to be attached to our earliest caregivers, no matter how badly they treat us -- it is literally a matter of SURVIVAL; partly bc a person's sense of self is so tied up in those attachments that to villify the caregiver is to destroy the part of the self that makes a person feel whatever degree of security they feel; and partly bc each of us assumes, for a long time, that our childhood was normal -- we have only one, and we don't have a true, deep, or intimate view of anyone else's.

And, all those submissive behaviors have been engrained in the abused, so the abused person acts out that role with everyone else, unconsciously looking for bullies at work to be their workplace buddies or mentors; finding bullies for non-workplace friends; finding abusers for romantic partners. The abused person can no more instantly shrug off that indoctrination than he can change his blood type. Abuse runs throughout a person's psychological makeup much as the circulatory system runs thru the body. It takes an ENORMOUS amount of hard work, courage, and time to start to change behaviors and patterns.


I don't know.
You got that right. I suggest that you buy a secondhand college-level textbook on the psychology of family dynamics and learn a little before you spout off nonsense that perpetuates harmful notions of "abusee is a weakling for not getting out of these situations."

Re: Dr. Sloper a terrible parent

Re: Dr. Sloper a terrible parent

Another dangerous flaw of Dr. Sloper's is his narcissism. He holds Catherine beneath his contempt because he finds her "dull". Now, it's one thing to admit to yourself that someone is kind of boring, even someone you love. It's another thing to sneer at them and hold them in contempt because of it.

That, in my opinion, is a facet of narcissistic behavior: believing that people are put on this earth not to live their own lives, but to serve your every need and entertain you. Dr. Sloper wanted Catherine to amuse and entertain him as though she were a trained seal, and she didn't.

Dr. Sloper thought he was king of the universe and everyone around him his court jesters, and woe to them if they failed to entertain him.

"Will you stop feeling sorry for yourself?! It's bad for your complexion!"-"Sixteen Candles"

Re: Dr. Sloper a terrible parent

the problem with unforgiveness, "refusing to go to a parent's death bed or funeral, etc." is they are gone and you remain. Your actions wind up hurting you way more than they could ever hurt them.


"the best that you can do is fall in love"

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Re: Dr. Sloper wasn't such a bad guy.

Wrong again.

Dr Sloper does spot Morris for what he, but he is more concerned about appearances than feelings. He can't stand the idea of the possibility of scandal and shame of losing his fortune to someone like Morris who must certainly have a bad rep.

Dr Sloper is a narcissist and Catherine was his emotional scapegoat. Even if she had become a brilliant conversationalist or a decent pianist, nothing would ever have been enough. Narcissists make their love conditional but once you meet the condition they move the bar.

He needed to keep blaming her for causing her mother's death and -- as a doctor -- he should have known better.



The Fabio Principle: Puffy shirts look best on men who look even better without them.

Re: Dr. Sloper wasn't such a bad guy.

Read the play if you want to see the doctor's true nature.

(Not exact quotes; I don't have the play in front of me)


When Aunt Lavinia points out how gentle and good Catherine is, the doctor flat out says, "You are nothing unless you are clever!"

He tells Aunt Elizabeth that he years waiting for her to approach the perfection of her mother so she could make it up to him for killing her.

Re: Dr. Sloper wasn't such a bad guy.

The one line that defines Dr. Sloper's character is at the party when he is talking to his sister: "Only I know what I have lost and what I have in her place." That particular line says to me that he thinks his daughter is garbage compared to her mother. Catherine could never measure up to the "ideal" image he has of his dead wife and consciously or unconsciously, he resents Catherine for that.

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