Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Thursday, February 16, 2012

"The Pupil" by Henry James

"The Pupil" by Henry James (1891, 32 pages)

Mr. C-1992 to 2012-
Cherished Always-
"The Pupil" by Henry James is one of the seven short stories I read on the day that we buried our beloved Cat,  Mr C.    In a world that sometimes seems senseless, Henry James is a source of great order and wisdom.   I have previously posted on four of his novels and two of his most famous short stories.

By   coincidence this story, like his wonderful easy to read short novel, The Aspern Papers, "The Pupil" is partially set in Venice, so I will include it as part of my participation in February in Venice hosted by  Ally from Snow Feathers and Dolce Bellezza.

"The Pupil" is a rather strange story.    Like several of the major works of James (1843 to 1916 USA), one of the central characters is a child, in this case a teenage boy who we first meet at age 11.   "The Pupil" has four main characters the young Pupil, his dishonest parents, and his tutor, the young recent Oxford graduate, Mr. Pemberton.    Pemberton is promised, of course, a salary but when he tries to ask what he will be paid, he is not given a straight answer.   In fact over the course of nearly two years with the family as they move from one hotel to another in Europe, skipping out on the bills, he is never paid anything.

The mother in the family, a truly nasty woman, uses emotional blackmail on the tutor employing his growing fondness for the boy as leverage when he does demand wages.   The boy knows the tutor is not being paid and he knows his parents are using the tutor for free lessons.   The tutor knows it also but he is so fond of the boy he does not want to quit his job.   He also has no money so he is kind of stuck as they do feed and house him.   One day a good friend finds the tutor a very well paying job with a decent affluent family and he takes it.    What happens next is really powerfully tragic.

As the story closes, the family moves to Venice and there are numerous references to places in Venice in the story.

"The Pupil" can easily be found online.

Mel u


Amateur Reader (Tom) said...

This really is a nice tribute to Mr. C. My condolences.

Mel u said...

Amateur Reader (Tom)-thank you very much-

Bellezza said...

I think I should read James in short doses like this, because The Wings of The Dove is unbearable tedious for me. I'm not sure if it's my attention span for right now, or if I'll never enjoy his work. So far, it doesn't bode well. I appreciate you saying he gives order and wisdom; I'll look for that in my further reading of his work.

Kate @Midnight Book Girl said...

Sorry for the loss of Mr. C, we lost our Siamese (mix) a few months ago and our house is sadly a quieter place.

I'm going to look up The Pupil and read it, since I'm intrigued by the tragic ending. Thanks for the review!

Mel u said...

Bellezza. Try. Washington. Square, not ponderous or slow moving, in fact it is really suspenceful

Kate. Thanks very much, Mr C was very vocal also