Paragraph Practice



In Henry James’ novel Washington Square, James uses run-on monologue, repetition of “you”, and stereotyping to expose Dr Sloper’s sexist point of view. First of all, in his conversation with Mrs Montgomery, Sloper hijacks the discussion and doesn’t give her the space to respond. James creates this effect by using run-on sentences which do not give Mrs Montgomery the opportunity to interrupt. He also employs many commas which create the feeling that Sloper always has something to add without questioning his perspective. The punctuation is declarative, primarily composed of periods and exclamation points, indicating that he is convinced he is right. Secondly, James has Dr Sloper repeatedly use the pronoun “you” in order to create a tone of judgement. Essentially, he accuses Mrs Montgomery of being a woman and uses “you” to blame her gender for making her a victim to Morris’ manipulation. For example, James writes: “You women are all the same! (…) you were made to be its handmaids and victims.” Here, Sloper generalizes Mrs Montgomery as a simple “woman.” His excessive use of “you” creates an incriminating image, it is meant to project

Quote Analysis warm-up

The Doctor eyed her a moment. “You women are all the same! But the type to which your brother belongs was made to be the ruin of you, and you were made to be its handmaids and victims. The sign of the type in question is the determination—sometimes terrible in its quiet intensity—to accept nothing of life but its pleasures, and to secure these pleasures chiefly by the aid of your complaisant sex. Young men of this class never do anything for themselves that they can get other people to do for them, and it is the infatuation, the devotion, the superstition of others, that keeps them going. These others in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred are women. What our young friends chiefly insist upon is that someone else shall suffer for them; and women do that sort of thing, as you must know, wonderfully well.” The Doctor paused a moment, and then he added abruptly, “You have suffered immensely for your brother!”

Simile Chart, The Handmaid’s Tale

SIMILE (quote + page number) ANALYSIS (what does it contribute to the reader’s understanding, what techniques/devices are used, what is revealed about character or theme) Student Name
“Yet if you look east, at sunset, you can see night rising, not falling; darkness lifting to the sky, up from the horizon, like a black sun behind cloudcover.”  p.201 Margaret Atwood uses antithesis to show the moon how bright it is during the night. Owen 
”buttered, I lie on my single bed, flat like a piece of toast”
” It makes the men look like dolls on which faces have not yet been painted, like scarecrows, which in à way is what they are, since they are meant to scare.” (p. 38) The objectification shows an important aspect of the book. It represents the position of those who don’t follow rules in society. If they don’t follow rules then they show the exemple as dolls that can be sacrificed when not conformed, manipulated till the beginning to the end. Used for one goal, maintain power in place.  Clément 
”Or I would help Rita, to make the bread, sinking my hands into that soft resistant warmth which is so much like flesh.“ p17 Offred doesn’t have any pleasure to help for the community tasks : she compares the texture she is touching (bread) to flesh which is a degrading comparaison.  Irénée  
 « It’s like a fart in church. » (p94) The situation is uncomfortable, Serena Joy doesn’t want to be heard crying and Offred is trying to stop herself from laughing just like a fart in church which you don’t want people to hear and for others that are trying to hold there laughter. Esther 
“I will  Offred  Victorious Victor
“I wait, washed, brushed like a prize pig” (p75)  This similie is very important as it shows how the handmaid’s, and particularly offered, feels about their place in the society. It is one of the first time that she clearly considers her placas as a very degrading state for a human being. But at the same time she is in the consideration of being a prize and is happy to be considered valuable. Q  Gatien
”I can see it as I go down the stairs, round, convex, a pier-glass, like the eye of a fish” (p15) Offred feels watched by an eye. The eye is the society. Everywhere she goes, everything she does, is controlled. She doesn’t have any liberty and private time, She is paranoid, she sees eyes everywhere and think that even walls are listening to her. Carla  
”like the eye of a fish, and myself in it like a distorted shadow, a parody of something, some fairytale figure…” (p15) Offred created a fictional world in which has full control of the plot in some part of her mind in order to maintain a good mental state and not a have a mental breakdown.
 “It’s like a party she couldn’t go to.” p141 Cora wants to be included and is feeling left out, because Martha’s aren’t allowed to go to the birthing ceremonies. The birthing ceremonies are of great importance showing of the Handmaid’s failed or not.  Melina 
”They pick him up and heave him into the back of the van like a sack of mail.” 


Ever since Gilead became a reality people are treated more like objects rather than actual people. They do not care if they get hurt. Pablo 
It was like being in an elevator cut loose at the top. Falling, falling, and not knowing when you will hit. Offref remembers when she and her family tried to escape across the Canadian border but were caught. She compare this moment of betrayal to the terror of being in an elevator whose cable has been cut at the top.  Mamadou 
Not all of you will make it through. Some of you will fall on dry ground or thorns. Some of you are shallow-rooted. . . think of yourselves as seeds. . . Offred talked about the comparison between the handmaid and the seed made by the aunts, which evokes the biblical simile of seed sowing and how these seeds grow in different soils. Lola  
”We are containers, it’s only the inside of our bodies that are important. The outside can become hard and wrinkled, for all they care, like the shell of a nut” (p.107) This quote shows how unimportant and non-essential the handmaid’s physical appearance and mental health is to the government of Gilead. It shows how the society of Gilead only cares about the handmaids’ ability to bear children, and how they are put aside and neglected, and treated like objects. Zara 
 ”Surprising how much like a small, begging child [Rita] makes me feel, simply by her scowl, her stolidity; how importunate and whiny.” (p. 214)  This simile illustrates how Offred is not free in her choices, how inferior she is to anyone from a hierarchical point of view. It takes her back to childhood, when she had to ask her mother to do or have something. She is not treated like a woman, but really like an irresponsible child.  Clémence  


Quotes: Washington Square, chapters 1-3

(Themes: Gaining Independence / Loss and Idealization / Class, Wealth, and Social Status/ Reason vs Romanticism, and Blind Spots / Women’s Limited Freedoms)

Chapter 1

For a man whose trade was to keep people alive he had certainly done poorly in his own family; and a bright doctor who within three years loses his wife and his little boy should perhaps be prepared to see either his skill or his affection impugned. Our friend, however, escaped criticism: that is, he escaped all criticism but his own, which was much the most competent and most formidable. He walked under the weight of this very private censure for the rest of his days, and bore forever the scars of a castigation to which the strongest hand he knew had treated him on the night that followed his wife’s death.

Chapter 2

Save when he fell in love with Catherine Harrington, he had never been dazzled, indeed, by any feminine characteristics whatever; and though he was to a certain extent what is called a ladies’ doctor, his private opinion of the more complicated sex was not exalted. He regarded its complications as more curious than edifying, and he had an idea of the beauty of reason, which was on the whole meagrely gratified by what he observed in his female patients. His wife had been a reasonable woman, but she was a bright exception; among several things that he was sure of, this was perhaps the principal. Such a conviction, of course, did little either to mitigate or to abbreviate his widowhood; and it set a limit to his recognition, at the best, of Catherine’s possibilities and of Mrs. Penniman’s ministrations.

Chapter 3

Her great indulgence of it was really the desire of a rather inarticulate nature to manifest itself; she sought to be eloquent in her garments, and to make up for her diffidence of speech by a fine frankness of costume. But if she expressed herself in her clothes it is certain that people were not to blame for not thinking her a witty person. It must be added that though she had the expectation of a fortune—Dr. Sloper for a long time had been making twenty thousand dollars a year by his profession and laying aside the half of it—the amount of money at her disposal was not greater than the allowance made to many poorer girls. In those days in New York there were still a few altar-fires flickering in the temple of Republican simplicity, and Dr. Sloper would have been glad to see his daughter present herself, with a classic grace, as a priestess of this mild faith. It made him fairly grimace, in private, to think that a child of his should be both ugly and overdressed. For himself, he was fond of the good things of life, and he made a considerable use of them; but he had a dread of vulgarity and even a theory that it was increasing in the society that surrounded him.

Handmaid’s Tale: Opening

Commentary on chapter one

Georgian palimpsestWe – this establishes a first-person narrator but she is unidentified.

Palimpsest – A palimpsest is a place on a parchment where writing has been scraped out and written over. Here, the narrator suggests that the past has been overlaid by the present.

pictures – This suggests to us that the narrator has not had the chance to experience these fashions herself.

That yearning – The speaker realises that her past young romantic fantasies never quite lived up to expectation.

Still said U.S. – This hints to us that the United States of America has ceased to exist.

Aunt Sara … Aunt Elizabeth – The names sound friendly and cosy – but then we read ‘patrolled; they had electric cattle prods.’ Our expectations are undermined.

could not be trusted – The use of the passive voice means that we do not know who does the mistrusting. The government of the state of Gilead is never explicitly identified in the novel.

Guns … for … the Angels – As with the Aunts, our expectations of the word ‘Angel‘ are undermined.

Something could be exchanged – The word ‘exchanged’ is frequently used in the novel, and becomes significant, suggesting the importance of human inter-action. (See Themes and significant ideas > Human relationships)

We still had our bodies – There seems to be a hint here of prostitution. Given that these young women are to become, effectively, sex-slaves, it is ironic that the speaker feels this is a ‘fantasy’.

We exchanged names … Alma, Janine, Dolores, Moira, June – During the course of the novel Alma, Janine, Dolores and Moira are all mentioned by the narrator, so is the narrator June? It is ironic that these women are later given new names referring to the man to whom they currently belong e.g. Offred, Ofglen, Ofwarren.

Investigating chapter one

  • What impressions have you gained from this chapter of the narrator and her circumstances
    • By what means?
  • What do you not know that you would have expected to find out from the first chapter of a novel?
    • What might be the author’s purpose in keeping such knowledge from her readers?

Washington Square: Intro

Warm-up journals

Catherine is a wealthy friend of yours. She is not very pretty, but she is a very nice person—simple and good. You can always count on her to be honest with you when you ask her opinion about choices you make in life. She is 21 and has rarely dated. Suddenly, a handsome, smooth-talking drifter comes into her life and proposes marriage. He sweeps Catherine off her feet. She wants to marry him even though her father has forbidden the marriage because he thinks the man is only after her money. You are concerned about your friend. When she tells you her dilemma, you see how sad she is. How do you advise her? What do you tell her father?


4 Corners Activity (Themes)




James crafted the novel of manners, emphasizing the standards and behaviors of a particular group of people in a particular time and place. James’s novels established a new direction for the American novel away from the romances of Cooper and Hawthorne, typically set in the past in a landscape of the mysterious forest with fantastic or imaginative actions.




Introduction to Psychological Realism

Andrew Wyeth. Christina's World. 1948 | MoMA

American Realism

1. literary and philosophical usages of the term Realism are distinct
2. realism refers not to the objective depiction of the reality but to the reality effect, something which is agreed upon as true or real
3. American and European periods of Realism do not coincide (European earlier R 1850-1880 N, American 1870-1880’s R and 1890’s N) and have different backgrounds (events, ideologies)

Reasons for emergence of American R:

–- rapid industrialisation and urbanisation after the Civil War which ended in victory for Northern capitalism (the Gilded Age 1865-1900 – ironic name given by Mark Twain due to unbridled materialism of the after war outburst of capitalism)
–- revision of literature in the wake of the universal progress in all spheres (social, material, intellectual): the writer has to reject the romantic material and methods of the earlier fiction which was based on limited knowledge, in favour of a realistic aesthetics which demanded that the subject matter of contemporary life should be objectively depicted
–- turn from sentimentalism to science which appeared to teach objectivity (see the world in its true light): Darwin On the Origin of Species 1859, The Decent of Man 1871
–- turn to current affairs in novels due to the Civil War; major movements of the 2nd half of the 19th century: slaves, women, immigrants
–- the promise of romantic democracy to settle all wrong matters right failed, increase of bureaucracy and corruption, ensuing distrust in the ruling elites


The literature of the new period had to face the conflict between the rapid changes in the economic and social domains and the system of moral values and attitudes inherited from the Victorian England. Thus, literature was the testing ground for these conflicts.

Such conflicts were usually exposed in the encounters between representatives of different backgrounds, either geographical (North vs. South, Europe vs. America), or social (different walks of life). The prevailing patterns for such encounters were travels, love relationships, and social advancement and descent.

Characteristics (from Richard Chase,The American Novel and Its Tradition)

1. Renders reality closely and in comprehensive detail. Selective presentation of reality with an emphasis on verisimilitude, even at the expense of a well-made plot
2. Character is more important than action and plot; complex ethical choices are often the subject.
3. Characters appear in their real complexity of temperament and motive; they are in explicable relation to nature, to each other, to their social class, to their own past.
4. Class is important; the novel has traditionally served the interests and aspirations of an insurgent middle class.
5. Events will usually be plausible. Realistic novels avoid the sensational, dramatic elements of naturalistic novels and romances.
6. Diction is natural vernacular, not heightened or poetic; tone may be comic, satiric, or matter-of-fact.
7. Objectivity in presentation becomes increasingly important: overt authorial comments or intrusions diminish as the century progresses.
8. Interior or psychological realism a variant form.


James himself admitted that the novel is a study of character – descriptive, analytic, psychological, concerned with fine shades and emotions.

An omniscient 3rd person narrator allows an objective insight into various characters’ minds, which is the hallmark of realism.

For James, the value of fiction writing lay in providing “a personal, a direct impression of life,” which to him was best achieved not by chronicling material conditions but rather by examining the subjective, psychological complexities of human beings.

James is mostly interested in the process which an American girl undergoes while freeing herself from the culturally imposed frame.