Shady characters permeate this film, but they can be easily forgotten under the thick melodrama that sweeps you into the storyline. Perhaps the most disturbing character to me was Dr. Tower.
I mean, really, who is this guy? From the beginning I could detect a kind of strange dynamic between Cassie and her father. After she and Parris swim together as children, she says that if her father finds out she’s been swimming with Parris, he would “take a switch” to her. At first I thought maybe he was strict about her coming straight home from school or something, but as soon as I heard about the mother staying in the home all of the time, it became more clear. Cassie’s mother was not insane or ill but a victim of a possessive man. By confining his wife and daughter to the home, he isolated himself, making himself unknown to anyone else in the town. As in every small town people talked in Kings Row, and Dr. Tower avoided a lot of this gossip by not allowing anyone into or out of his home.
Even at Cassie’s birthday party, the guests were all outside, and when Parris enters the house to thank Dr. Tower, he is quickly shooed away to go home. Did anyone else think of Forrest Gump here? I had to think of Forrest and Jenny as children and how much their interactions were like that of Cassie and Parris. Both little girls had dark and deep secrets: they were victims of incest. Cassie is pulled out of school and is not allowed to leave the house.
She is timid, skiddish, and cannot look Parris in the eye when he visits their home. Dr. Tower would like us to believe that she has gone insane, as he claims his wife was, and even Parris buys this.
I almost wanted to scream when Parris says, “He must’ve known about us,” commenting on Dr. Tower murdering his daughter and commiting suicide in order to prevent Parris from living a life with a psychotic wife. Yes, Dr. Tower did know about Parris and Cassie. He knew they had a sexual relationship, and that is why he killed Cassie.
Perhaps the biggest clue was when Cassie comes screaming to Parris in the middle of the night for help and then refuses his request to walk her home. She probably knew that if Parris came home with her, her father, knowing about their relationship, would kill him as well. Then, when Parris and Drake walk by the house to check on Cassie, everything is calm. I found it odd that after such a hysterical breakout Cassie would be able to be calm. I guess after years of abuse she had numbed herself somewhat.
Needless to say, Dr. Parris Mitchell, a student of psychiatry, seems to have missed the biggest headcase in his town: his mentor. When Parris was confused about how to tell Drake the news concerning the amputation he didn’t need, thecolonel tells him to treat Drake just as a patient, not someone he knew.
Perhaps if Parris had examined the situation of Dr. Tower and Cassie as an outsider, he would’ve seen that it was not Cassie but her father who suffered psychosis.