Final Essay

1135 Words3 Pages
In both Washington Square, by Henry James, and Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton, the theme of duty is present. They both deal with the correlation between one’s sense of duty and the freedom that characters secretly crave. In them, this duty is intertwined with family and marriage. They also both have endings in which the main characters follow their duty and ultimately reject the freedom they once sought. Catherine rejects Morris at the end of Washington Square, even after Dr. Sloper is no longer alive to oppose their marriage. Newland Archer rejects Madame Olenska in the ending of The Age of Innocence; he is still committed to the memory of his deceased wife. Where these two novels differ are the motivations that characters have for following their duties. Catherine is motivated by the acceptance of her father, where Newland is motivated by his social class duties.
In Washington Square, Catherine Sloper is obedient to her father and follows his will. A plain girl, Catherine has always disappointed her father and seeks his approval by listening to him. He believes that she is “an inadequate substitute for his lamented first-born.” (5) It is not until the introduction of Morris Townsend, the first man interested in marrying Catherine, that she begins making her own decisions and carving out a life of her own. However, she still exhibits a sense of duty. In this case, Catherine wishes to make Morris happy by following his wishes. Even though Dr. Sloper does not truly love Catherine and may blame her for the death of his wife and first-born son, he still has his own personal duty. He wants to see that Catherine marries a respectable man and he wants to make sure she is taken care of financially. When Morris is talking with Dr. Sl...

... middle of paper ...

...rds as often as Holden does, he wants to preserve the innocence of life. While reading, I counted over two-hundred instances of the word “goddam.” Yet, when Holden sees the words “fuck you” written in several areas of his sister Phoebe’s school, he attempts to remove each occurrence of the word. (201) He is afraid of some little kid seeing the words, wondering what they meant, and someone explaining it to them incorrectly. He prizes innocence above many things in his life, which gives him conflicting thoughts in the novel. He wants to have sex, but he is scared of it. (92) He detests fighting and is a pacifist, but he likes how blood makes him look tough. (45) Holden is hard to believe because of the hypocrisy he exhibits in his actions and words, which make him a phony too. Even though Holden may tell the truth sometimes, he is ultimately an untrustworthy narrator.

More about Final Essay

Open Document