General Question Thesis Statement workshopping

To what extent does James make Dr Sloper a frightening character?

Thesis statements proposed by groups in class (we marked in bold which elements we thought were the strongest in the thesis statement):


In Henry James’ novel Washington Square, James makes Dr Sloper a frightening character through his rude treatment of Morris, his systematic rejection of Catherine’s demands, and his sexist attitude.


James makes Dr Sloper a very frightening character through his relationship with Catherine, his sexist point of view, and his wickedness towards Morris.


In Henry James’ novel Washington Square, James uses interior monologue, thought vs dialogue, and             to make Dr Sloper a cold-hearted, stubborn and pessimistic character.


James makes Dr Sloper a slightly frightening character through the way he talks to Catherine, how he wants to control her, and the way he has satisfaction in her suffering.

James makes Dr Sloper a cruel and authoritative character through his brutal and vicious thoughts, his cold-hearted reactions to Catherine’s struggle, and his hypocritical way of addressing people.


Proposed “winner” rewrite of the thesis:


In Henry James’ novel Washington Square, James shows how Dr Sloper is a cold-hearted, stubborn, and pessimistic character through his sexist point of view, his systematic rejection of Catherine’s demands, and his vicious thoughts of satisfaction in Catherine’s suffering. 


OIB Oral Practice Schedule

OIB Oral Practice “examens blancs”


Student Passage Date
Thel-Mina Passage 1  Wed Nov 10th
Eugenie Passage 9 Wed Nov 17th
Louis To Earthward Wed Dec 1st
Allegra Passage 2 Wed Dec 8th 
Brune Passage 8 Wed Dec 15th 
Yolo The Wood Pile  Wed Jan 5th
Martin Passage 3 Wed Jan 12th 
Azi Passage 7 Wed Jan 19th
Capucine  An Unstamped Letter Wed Feb 2nd
Tanguy  Passage 4  Wed Feb 9th 


Prepare your 15 minute commentaire

Make a “Fiche” outline of your commentary + links


Extract Practice

The Doctor almost pitied her.  Poor Catherine was not defiant; she had no genius for bravado; and as she felt that her father viewed her companion’s attentions with an unsympathising eye, there was nothing but discomfort for her in the accident of seeming to challenge him.  The Doctor felt, indeed, so sorry for her that he turned away, to spare her the sense of being watched; and he was so intelligent a man that, in his thoughts, he rendered a sort of poetic justice to her situation.

“It must be deucedly pleasant for a plain inanimate girl like that to have a beautiful young fellow come and sit down beside her and whisper to her that he is her slave—if that is what this one whispers.  No wonder she likes it, and that she thinks me a cruel tyrant; which of course she does, though she is afraid—she hasn’t the animation necessary—to admit it to herself.  Poor old Catherine!” mused the Doctor; “I verily believe she is capable of defending me when Townsend abuses me!”

And the force of this reflexion, for the moment, was such in making him feel the natural opposition between his point of view and that of an infatuated child, that he said to himself that he was perhaps, after all, taking things too hard and crying out before he was hurt.  He must not condemn Morris Townsend unheard.  He had a great aversion to taking things too hard; he thought that half the discomfort and many of the disappointments of life come from it; and for an instant he asked himself whether, possibly, he did not appear ridiculous to this intelligent young man, whose private perception of incongruities he suspected of being keen.  At the end of a quarter of an hour Catherine had got rid of him, and Townsend was now standing before the fireplace in conversation with Mrs. Almond.

“We will try him again,” said the Doctor.  And he crossed the room and joined his sister and her companion, making her a sign that she should leave the young man to him.  She presently did so, while Morris looked at him, smiling, without a sign of evasiveness in his affable eye.

“He’s amazingly conceited!” thought the Doctor; and then he said aloud: “I am told you are looking out for a position.”

“Oh, a position is more than I should presume to call it,” Morris Townsend answered.  “That sounds so fine.  I should like some quiet work—something to turn an honest penny.”

“What sort of thing should you prefer?”

“Do you mean what am I fit for?  Very little, I am afraid.  I have nothing but my good right arm, as they say in the melodramas.”

“You are too modest,” said the Doctor.  “In addition to your good right arm, you have your subtle brain.  I know nothing of you but what I see; but I see by your physiognomy that you are extremely intelligent.”

“Ah,” Townsend murmured, “I don’t know what to answer when you say that!  You advise me, then, not to despair?”

And he looked at his interlocutor as if the question might have a double meaning.  The Doctor caught the look and weighed it a moment before he replied.  “I should be very sorry to admit that a robust and well-disposed young man need ever despair.  If he doesn’t succeed in one thing, he can try another.  Only, I should add, he should choose his line with discretion.”