Cathy Whitaker initially comes off as the stereotypical housewife of the 1950’s. Her husband works, she stays home, takes care of the kids and gossips with her girlfriends. Life really can’t be that simple, can it?
Cathy’s life seems to be all over the place. She finds out that her husband is having an affair with a man at work. Cathy desperately tries to rekindle the love that her marriage once had. When going on vacation after Christmas, he husband cheats on her again and the marriage basically fails from that point on. In the 1950’s, homosexuality is thought of as a disease. Frank is recommended to go to doctors, as if his “condition” could be cured. This clearly didn’t work out.
Our poor Cathy finds herself in another predicament when she becomes friendly with her gardener, Raymond Deagan. As a colored man, Raymond did not live an easy life in the 50s. Cathy, a white woman, going around with him, was easily considered taboo. Raymond and Cathy never stood a chance against society. When she is confronted by her neighbor about being seen around town with Raymond, she blatantly denies it, despite knowing her own feelings. The societal norms were too strong for Cathy Whitaker to go against.
Within the context of the film, Far from Heaven, Raymond Deagan was a african amiercan single parent living in a southern Connecticut town where African and Caucasian races rarely intermingle outside of business. When he tried to befriend Cathy Whitaker every other person in town disagreed with them being friends. He had absolutely no freedom to even pick and choose who he would want in his life because it was not socially accepted during this period in time due to segregation. When Raymond tried to become more then friends with Cathy just grabbing on to her arm prompted everyone on the street to threaten him due to their class differences. His daughter was abused and even stoned just over the fact that her father had a white “girlfriend” which was not even true. Towards the end of the film when Cathy had chosen to divorce her husband she went to find Raymond and asked if they could be together in another location, however Raymond replied with a controversial quote “I”ve learned my lesson about mixing the two worlds” which really was the summing up of what the entire movie was about. Raymond didn’t have the freedom to choose which world he wished to live in, he was instantly viewed with hostility due to the color of his skin, not the character he could have. I feel that Raymond was the person with the least freedom because he had to leave the woman he grew to love so that his daughter wouldn’t have to suffer anymore indignities that could occur because of her father’s relationship.
In the 1950s, women in American society relied on men to provide them a stable future filled with security and income. Cathy struggles greatly trying to be happy with her life because Frank, her husband, never appears or puts the effort to show he cares. It seems though impossible, keeping her family together when he barely comes home most nights, and her kids don’t have the feeling of a father figure in their life. As Frank avoids being affectionate with Cathy and instead with other men; slowly, this tares her down and her family apart. The fear of losing him, she only hopes with time and treatment his disease would get better, but truly it only got worse. Cathy gets physically abused by Frank. Women during that time period were considered property owned by their husbands, therefore it was very common for women to get hit.
Turning to Raymond, an African American man, Cathy begins to feel important, and meaningful in his presents. Though society does not accept Raymond, Cathy thinks he’s simply beautiful. Unable to express how she feels to her husband, Raymond allows her to talk about any of her problems. However, as the community begins to see them causally standing together, others start to talk and awful rumors continue to spread. Its hard for Cathy to live without no longer having a man who loves her, and Raymond to rely on when he leaves town. Cathy is vulnerable once she is left with almost nothing to make her feel alive.
A modern day satirical picture that captures many of the confining aspects of life for women in the 1950s.
Cathy Whitaker is a good mother. Cathy Whitaker is a good wife. Cathy Whitaker knows her place.
These are the three qualifications of an “accomplished” woman that mask the undeniably sinister oppression of women in the 1950s. Far From Heaven uses the character of Cathy Whitaker as vessel to personify the invisible prison that women of the era found themselves in. Cathy is the quintessential good wife; she takes care of her family, adapts to any of her husband’s needs, and never questions the order of society. Cathy is an individual but social conditioning has morphed her into the 1950s version of a Stepford wife. It is nearly impossible for her to even attempt living an “authentic” life, because the man she has built her life around is slowly ripping apart her “ticky tacky” home, and she is forced to watch her life crumble whilst sitting to the side with a forced, meaningless smile on her face.
Despite being a product of the methodical and patriarchal minds of the era, Cathy does manage to build one authentic relationship in the movie. However, it is through this unusual, yet admirable, relationship that viewers are made aware of how severe and confining social roles are in the 1950s. Raymond Deagan, a black gardener, enthralls Cathy with his initial fearlessness of prejudice, and willingness to have an honest conversation. Raymond’s display of genuine concern for Cathy’s wellbeing and happiness is a complete contrast to her life as Ms. Magnatech. Cathy’s friendship with Raymond is the only healthy, honest, and comforting relationship she has ever had with someone. Yet just as Cathy begins to explore her personal desires she is met with a wall of hatred and conformity. She is viciously stripped of all the important relationships in her life, and is left to raise her children in a white man’s world. The oddest, and possibly cruelest, part of Cathy Whitaker’s entrapment is that within this patriarchal society her most merciless attackers are women. Cathy Whitaker may have been the image of feminine perfection, but the filmmakers of Far From Heaven end the movie with a lonely and helpless Cathy. Behind their masks of satisfaction many women of the 1950s were just like Cathy; they were powerless and scared.
After knowing the society’s conservative thoughts, two souls experienced a side of them that haunted their conscious day after day. While everyone is programmed to believe a normal life is consisted of the husband making the bread for the family and the wives taking care of the kids at home, Frank Whitaker and Cathy Whitaker both diverged away from the robots. They had distinctive feelings and thoughts that made them unique as individuals.
Frank Whitaker ends up sharing saliva with another man in his office when all of a sudden his wife, Cathy, walks in on them. He later becomes terrified that this “medical problem” will ruin his life with his wife and kids. In the 1950’s this wasn’t even considered normal to many people. The thought of being engaged intimately with the same sex was outrageous and absurd. However, Frank was one of few who had broken ties from the “idealistic” life and began to continue his future onwards by being himself. Very few took the opportunity of becoming happy. For example Raymond Deagan was a black man who fell in love with a white women, Cathy. After he found out the consequences of having a white girlfriend when his daughter was attacked by three white boys, he decided to severe ties with Cathy. The 1950’s all had this mentality that people were diseased if they were not straight. They also looked down upon women or men if they feel in love with another race. This was a time where secrets and thoughts were bundled up locked in chains where only few were able to break through and reveal their true selves.
During the 1950’s, American society dropped its own Iron Curtain around women and completely limited their social, economic, and political freedoms. While there were still certain laws in place that separated men and women, the main divide came from unspoken social laws. A clear example of a model, suburban American woman is portrayed in the film Far From Heaven with Cathy’s character. While she is in essence, the “ideal” type of woman during this time period, she is incredibly unhappy.
While on the outside she is Mrs. Magnatech, the wife of a successful salesman, and has a nice home and two children, she does have internal family issues. After hosting a great party and increasing her social standing, she is left alone in the dark with Frank. With the rules and regulations of society removed, her drunken husband abuses her because he has issues with homosexuality. Although the male figures in this movie have the ability to take action, like Frank pursuing his new lover and Raymond moving away, women are the most trapped because they are bound to either their husbands or their homes. When she loses Frank she loses her economic freedom, which in American society at the time was also the source of social freedom. So while Frank was free to continue life with a new man, and Raymond was able to start anew with his daughter in a different town, Cathy is left to live the life of a divorced, black-loving, friendless woman.
Cathy Whitaker is a prime example of a housewife during the 1950’s for she embodies all the characteristics of a loving mother and doting wife, the roles in which she is expected to play by society. This image that she had portray thanks to the ideals during that time, is what kept her from living a fulfilling life, free of oppression. Cathy was living the American dream with her successful husband and kids in a beautiful home located in the suburbs. However, with Cathy and Frank’s marriage falling apart because of Frank’s realization of his attraction to men and Cathy’s growing feelings for Raymond Deagan, the black gardener, the dream quickly collapses. Because homosexuality and interracial relationships were seen as a horrible crime, Frank, Cathy and Raymond are forced to sneak around in their pursuit for happiness. Unfortunately, people in town begin to gossip about the nature of Cathy and Raymond’s relationship leading them to alienation from the townspeople and the downfall of everything they worked so hard to achieve.
The ending scene of Far From Heaven when Cathy drives away with her kids from the railroad stations shows how in the end, Cathy suffered the most, still trapped in her life with no way of escaping. With a divorce from Cathy, Frank would be free to pursue his authentic way of living but Cathy would be obligated to stay and take care of the children since she was their mother and it was considered to be her duty. Raymond had the ability to move with his daughter and start anew because he was capable of finding work to support him and his daughter. Cathy however, has no savings, no job, no education, no husband and no way to support her family. With hardships that she is bound to face, she can’t pursue a fulfilling life due to the limits that have been imposed upon her thanks to the ideals of the 1950’s.
When Cathy reveals her problems to Eleanor, Eleanor is supportive and pities Cathy until it is revealed that Cathy has feelings for Raymond. Eleanor represents the white society which seems to be more okay with someone being homosexual than interracial relationships. Cathy’s options are limited because she cannot freely be with Raymond because people will talk badly about them and hurt Raymond’s daughter. Most people at that time avoided being different from the norm so Cathy was greatly influenced by that.
Also, now that Frank and Cathy are divorced, Cathy must support her children and herself on her own. She is in quite a predicament because it was virtually impossible for a woman to survive on her own with kids during that time. Since Cathy cannot be with Raymond, she has no choice but to attempt survival alone. She is trapoed with no one to turn to for help since the white society dislikes her because of she went out with Raymond. People are bound to find out about the divorce, which some might rumor that it’s because of Raymond, and that would only make things worse for Cathy.
A specific moment from the movie is when Frank Whitaker uneasily, yet curiously follows two lively men into a dark alley which eventually leads into an underground gay bar. This scene shows how American society in the 1950′ s limits Frank’s life option to be homosexual and feel authentic happiness without any pressure from society prohibiting him to lead such a life. The fact that this gay bar is located in the back of a dark alley without any visible advertisement shows that American society in the 1950’s completely shunned the mere idea of homosexuality. This causes the creation of hidden establishments in dark, unwelcoming areas that serve as safe havens for homosexual people during this time period. This also causes Frank, along with other homosexual men to be social outcasts due to them having to subject themselves to environments which are not displayed to the public.
In my opinion, Frank is extremely trapped from society to pursue what makes him genuinely happy. He is constantly in a state of conflict every passing day. He is forced to put his family and his “life” before his source of authentic happiness because of how unacceptable homosexuality is to society during this time. Throughout the movie, Frank is continually fighting against himself as a result of what society thinks, in order to hide what brings him true joy in his life.
“Here’s to being the only one.” Raymond Deagan said as he proposed a toast to Cathleen Whitaker when he truly believed that being different and having different beliefs was a good thing. He knew that going to the art gallery with his daughter, being the only colored people, would turn heads and cause the white people to whisper. Despite this, he refused to allow this to stop him from enjoying his freedom. However the people of the town believed he overlooked his boundaries of freedom when he offers his friendship to Cathy. He even takes her to a diner full of colored people, showing her what it felt like to be the only different individual in the room. Although he reassures her that it is a friendly place, the judgmental eyes that surrounded them said otherwise.
Trying to break free from the shackles of normality in society, he did not imagine that adopting a harmless friendship would in turn cause harm for his daughter. Three white boys threw rocks at his daughter and other black people threw rocks at their windows. The deplorable truth behind this was simply because the color of his skin did not allow him to associate freely with someone other than his own kind. It is ironic how the outcome of a friendship between a black man and white woman would cause such an uproar between both races, showing how outrageously unacceptable this was on both sides of town. Both blacks and whites began to shun Raymond, causing him to flee from the racist madness. Left with hopeless ideals of equality, Raymond is trapped by the walls built by society and unable to pursue his interest for Cathy. He is left with no choice but to accept the boundaries, “I’ve learned my lesson about mixing in other worlds. I’ve seen the sparks fly. All kinds.”