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|Catherine and James's Relationship with the Thorpes (long)
Written by BarbaraB
(3/8/2009 1:24 a.m.)
James. Heaven help him. He seems a likeable enough person but it doesn't take long to realize that he fails miserably in his responsibility to himself as well as to his sister. James is a follower, in my opinion---he does not stop to assess people or situations but goes with his feelings and personal desires irregardless of the values instilled in him at home.
Having grown up in a small country village without benefit of exposure to more wordly settings and people, it can be conceded that James and Catherine are not equipped to 'read' people as they ought. They have no former 'outside' experiences with which to base anything on or to use to help them make comparisons. Balls, seasons, and travels with parents, aunts, uncles, etc. are a kind of training ground which they seem to be initially lacking.
That said, a loud, boorish, rude, overbearing, bragging, bullying personality such as John Thorpe's does not need 'reading'. He is an open book. Skimming is all that is needed. One paragraph, metaphorically, (a page, litterally, if that) is more than enough to figure him out. Here, Catherine does pass the test: "these manners did not please Catherine;" On first meeting she did not care for him but he is her friend's brother and her brother's friend so decides to make the best of the situation.
So why isn't Catherine as immediately successful at 'reading' Isabella? To begin with Isabella dosesn't have the loud 'off-putting' personality of her brother. There are things in her personality that should be suspect, to be sure, but Catherine has yet to meet any other 'wordly' young ladies to whom to make comparisons. (When she met JT, she had already met Henry, who was an example of what a gentleman ought to be, though, in assesing JT, I don't think 'a Henry' is necessarily necessary.) Isabella knows how to foster immediate admiration and inspire awe, tempered with her 'easy gaity' and 'expressions of delight'. Four years older and four years better informed she could compare the balls of Bath with those of Turnbridge, discuss the lastest fashions of London, etc. Even so, Catherine does not just go along with everything Isabella says as evidenced by their conversation about Sir Charles Grandison. Nor does she shrink from wondering or questioning Isabella's behavior to herself or aloud:
"But, my dearest Catherine, have you settled what to wear on your head tonight? I am determined at all events to be dressed exactly like you. The men take notice of that sometimes, you know.”
“But it does not signify if they do,” said Catherine, very innocently.
“Signify! Oh, heavens! I make it a rule never to mind what they say. They are very often amazingly impertinent if you do not treat them with spirit, and make them keep their distance.”
“Are they? Well, I never observed that. They always behave very well to me.”
James, on the other hand, fails completely on both accounts. He has been around John Thorpe for at least a couple of months, if not more, giving him ample time to discover JT's character. There is not only his boorish, etc. personality but the way he treats his family, wastes money (when he could be more considerate of his mother financially), indulges in drinking parties, and lies. If Catherine can determine Thorpe's character in a few minutes, why can't James do so in a few months? More too, he is older and has been out in the world longer.
I see it this way. They were brought up by the same set of good parents who gave them a good set of principles. The difference is that Catherine, whether successful or not, when left to her own devices, uses these principles to help her maneuver her way through an unfamiliar environment. John, as far as I can see, makes no effort to apply the values he learned at home. I have to believe that James does not want to really 'see' John Thorpe.
As far as James and Isabella are concerned, I can understand a young man having his head turned by a pretty face but one would think he would eventually see through the theatrics. As Catherine is beginning to detect glimpses of a shallow side of Isabella, James becomes more indulgent. When Isabella is maligning Catherine for refusing to renege on her promise to go walking with Eleanor to accompany her and the brothers to Blaize Castle:
Catherine thought this reproach equally strange and unkind. Was it the part of a friend thus to expose her feelings to the notice of others? Isabella appeared to her ungenerous and selfish, regardless of everything but her own gratification. These painful ideas crossed her mind, though she said nothing. Isabella, in the meanwhile, had applied her handkerchief to her eyes; and Morland, miserable at such a sight, could not help saying, “Nay, Catherine. I think you cannot stand out any longer now. The sacrifice is not much; and to oblige such a friend — I shall think you quite unkind, if you still refuse.”
James, by his silence, is agreeing with Thorpe's deceitful tactic of going to Eleanor and telling a lie in order to get Catherine to go to the castle with them. Indeed he (James) 'too looked happy again.' When Catherine still refuses to give in to their demand and plans to go make things right with the Tilneys, the Thorpes physically take hold of her hands to prevent it. Instead of interceding on his sister's behalf, James is actually angry with Catherine and joins in the verbal attacks against her. I am utterly astonished.
Catherine is seriously trying to apply the principles she has been taught. She has a long way to go but we see her making progress in these applications as she attempts to sort through her interactions with people, to try to do what is right: As she walked, she reflected on what had passed. ...to have failed a second time in her engagement to Miss Tilney, to have retracted a promise voluntarily made only five minutes before, and on a false pretence too, must have been wrong. ...she had attended to what was due to others, and to her own character in their opinion.
I can only hope James will come to follow her expample.
---A bit lengthy. If you're reading this, thanks for staying with me. :)
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