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|Catherine's unheroic parents
Written by KateL
(4/1/2006 7:10 p.m.)
I love the way Mr & Mrs Morland are presented as liabilities to Catherine's claim to heroineship. Her father is respectable, not poor and not even handsome. Her mother is healthy enough to produce ten children! Our narrator seems almost apologetic that Catherine wasn't orphaned at birth, or at least abused and locked up by her father.
Her mother teaches all the children at home (homeschooling ten children!) and her father does his share, teaching her writing and accounts. They give her opportunities to learn French and music, but sensibly don't insist on her "being accomplished in spite of incapacity or distaste". She has books aplenty and lots of time for rough play outside, especially when her mother is occupied with the little ones. Nice balance of encouragement without pushiness; modern child psychologists would applaud.
Best of all is their treating her trip with "a degree of moderation and composure which seemed rather consistent with the common feelings of common life". No floods of tears or warnings against abductions, just "Here's some money, let us know when you need more, try to keep track of it, oh, and dress warmly."
Of course it all emphasises Catherine's tragic lack of heroic upbringing. When was the last time anyone heard of a literary teenage character (Gothic or modern) who was the well-adjusted product of a loving, functional family? No wonder she had the misfortune of growing up normal and likeable.
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