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Does Henry James present Catherine Sloper as that of a conventional character in the early chapters of 'Washington Square'?

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Introduction

Does Henry James present Catherine Sloper as that of a conventional character in the early chapters? In his novel 'Washington Square' Henry James presents his foremost heroine, Catherine Sloper, in an extremely different way than most 19th Century authors. James has strangely presented her as an unconventional heroine; this is shown in many of her features, characteristics and proceedings in her life. The way James introduces the reader to the novel, in the opening chapters, lets the reader truly see the characters and understand them in great detail, this technique of using narrative methods allows the reader to see that Catherine Sloper is an unconventional character. James portrays Catherine as an unconventional heroine early on in the novel on page three. This is a look at her birth and the situation that surrounded it, her mother died, "leaving Austin Sloper a widower". Dr Sloper took this badly, partially down to the fact that he was a well-known doctor, so this reflected poorly on him. ...read more.

Middle

Catherine's description in chapter two continues to support the idea that she is an unconventional heroine. Many of the descriptions of her, give the reader the impression of her being masculine, unlike many heroines in 19th century novels, such as Elizabeth Bennet in Jane Austin's ' Pride and Prejudice', who is her fathers favourite child, clever, popular and attractive. Catherine on the other hand is described as "robust", a description usually describing a male character not a female heroine. James in chapter two describes Catherine as a good "romp" and admits that it is an "awkward confession to make about ones heroine"; this again helps to argue that Catherine is an unconventional character. A masculine description continues when she is shown to like eating, and devotes her " pocket money to purchase ...cream cakes". She isn't described as an interesting or exciting character that usually appears to be the characteristics of a heroine, she is infact described as a "dull, plain girl". ...read more.

Conclusion

Catherine's fashion decisions in chapter three, shows her unconventional characteristics. She chooses a dress which can only cause "embarrassment", so she is now "both ugly and overdressed" a description that is certainly not usually related to that of a heroine. The description of her cousin Marion Almond in chapter four is far more conventional. She is described as a "pretty person", with elegance and a slim figure, all opposites of Catherine. She also has the characteristics of a conventional 19th century heroine, with good skills in being a "hostess". She has already got a partner in Arthur Townsend, Morris's cousin, yet she is only seventeen, three years younger than Catherine. To conclude, Catherine is an unconventional heroine in the time of this novel. Her characteristics, looks and generally her life are not what the stereotypical heroine is, who is usually attractive, popular and clever. Her father and the author, in his use of a narrative technique, describe Catherine as having features and looks that are not expected in a heroine. Not at any stage of the early chapters does James present Catherine as a conventional heroine. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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