Thursday, February 17, 2022

Washington Square

Filial loyalty is one of the major themes of Henry James’s Washington Square. Catherine Sloper’s devotion is bought at the price of her self-conception. How many times have you found yourself seduced by the protection of an authority figure who doesn’t have your best interests at heart? Perhaps a competitive sibling or friend has bidden you to set your sights lower than they might have been under the guise of protecting you from unrealistic wishes? James’s character meets a tragic end to the extent that her gesture of independence is a failure. “From her point view,” remarks the author, “the great facts of her career were that Morris Townsend had triftled with her affection and then her father had broken its spring.” In a more modern version of the tale, you might depart from your secure position in the boring family business to pursue your dream of being a great artist, only to meet with failure—as most people do who try to turn avocations into vocations. But is all lost? What if you're left to scrap out a living in your artist’s garret, barely making ends meet with adjunct teaching gigs? It may sound romantic in a l950ish kind of way, but would you have been better off with the split level in Rye and the membership in the country club, forever regretting have risked the disapprobation of your family by taking a risk?

read "What is Goodness? Or the Gift of Charoset" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "It's Your Thing" by The Isley Brothers

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