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Washington Square Essay

In: English and Literature

Submitted By rissadharma
Words 871
Pages 4
Through the texts, important human and moral issues of that context are revealed. This is especially evident in the novel Washington Square written by Henry James. Through the characterisation of protagonists to portray certain themes that reflect the historical and social context of the time such as a patriarchal and elitist society and the treatment of Catherine, James successfully raises important human and moral issues.

Through Sloper’s treatment of Catherine, not only is his persona revealed but also the ideals and conventions of society in that time, successfully raising moral and human issues. Patriarchy was evident, being widely accepted amongst culture, thus in this period his treatment of Catherine would have been viewed as somewhat fair and acceptable. Sloper treats Catherine as a lower, questioning her physical and mental capabilities, belittling her abilities from the start. This can be attributed to both her unfavorable sex and his personal vendetta against her due to the fact her birth caused her mothers death. To exemplify this, he says: “I expect nothing,” he said to himself, “so that, if she gives me a surprise, it will be all clear gain. If she doesn’t, it will be no loss.
This excerpt represents the low expectations, if any, Sloper holds for Catherine’s life. Prior to this, the text explains quite frankly, about the disappointment felt by Sloper over the birth of a girl. When first introduced, Catherine is described as ‘an infant of a sex which rendered the poor child... an inadequate substitute for his lamented first born’. Thus the further insight into the patriarchal society is provided, with the predetermined context of Catherine influencing her father’s opinion of her even before her life has begun. He swore to himself, that his son would be her predecessor, carrying on the family business. The disappointment felt over the sex of...

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