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Analysis and Review of the Pupil by Henry James

Updated on July 11, 2011
Ebey Soman profile image

I am a working professional who shares a deep passion for writing and likes to share his thoughts using credible sources and facts

Book Cover of Pupil
Book Cover of Pupil | Source

Relationships are often one sided because they only involve the direct feelings and dealings between the characters, not a cumulative interest by all. In Henry James “The Pupil,” three odd relationships set the mood of the opening excerpt of the fictional account. Relationships are formed between these three characters because all the people are in some sort of trouble or need. From the passage, it can be deciphered that Mr. Pemberton is penniless and hopes to earn some by tutoring Morgan Moreen, while Mrs. Moreen wants to dump Morgan on Pemberton, all the while Morgan seems to want to get away from home and go along with Pemberton. James’ tone and point of view depict these relationships as one where all are involved somehow to exploit and use each other.

James subtly describes Pemberton as penniless because the only issue on Pemberton’s mind is how to get some money. James characterizes Pemberton’s point of view by explaining his relationships with Mrs. Moreen and Morgan. James’ tone shows Pemberton to be a humble needy man who intends to support himself honestly by tutoring. Pemberton’s discomfort in asking Mrs. Moreen about the amount his salary despite his apparent poverty shows he is “modest” and “timid.” Pemberton’s modesty and timidity explains hesitant relationship with Mrs. Moreen. Though he is in dire need of money, he still tries to maintain the attribute of good tutor. His relationship with Morgan blooms when he recognizes him as an intellectual fellow, therefore Pemberton is an excellent man in his behavior.

James depicts Mrs. Morgan as woman feigning to be an aristocrat. His description of her behavior toward Pemberton suggests that she is eager to dump Morgan on someone. Throughout the whole conversation, Mrs. Morgan does not ask Pemberton his fees for tutoring Morgan. James depicts her as impolite and ill mannered in her relationship with Pemberton. Her tone is arrogant and presumptuous when she says, “Oh, I can assure you that all that will be regular.” She assumes that all will be regular, but Pemberton counters her statement in the next paragraph when he says the word regular has many definitions. She is grandiose and affected in her relationship with Pemberton. In addition, her relationship with Morgan is noteworthy because of her disregard of the boy’s heart condition. Her callous attitude toward Morgan implies that she does not seem to care much for him but rather wants to get rid of him as if he was not her responsibility.

Morgan, though he is only eleven, is depicted by James to be an intelligent and delicate fellow that will one day outsmart Pemberton. Throughout the passage, the general tone ascribed to Morgan is he eagerly wants to leave where he is now. His relationship towards Pemberton is in its infancy, as master and pupil have not bonded yet. However, the first impression given by Morgan is about his ill manners in presenting himself in front of his mother. A statement about this by Pemberton suggests that the boy will be trained well in all walks of society. In addition, upon his entrance before in to the presence of his mother and Pemberton, Pemberton likes him and comments he is “intelligent looking.” Pemberton’s tone is delightful because he knows he will not be wasting his time in tutoring Morgan.

The three relationships that occur within this excerpt are driven by need. All the characters have had different attitudes and have set different relationships with each other. Pemberton’s relationship with Mrs. Morgan is hesitant because of the money matters while he is eager to work with Morgan to support his life. Mrs. Morgan is pompous in her dealings with Pemberton and is unkind to Morgan despite his heart condition. Morgan dislikes Mrs. Morgan and the whole atmosphere at home and like the prospect of going to be “The Pupil” under Mr. Pemberton.


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  • rebelogilbert profile image

    Gilbert Arevalo 

    16 months ago from Hacienda Heights, California

    I'd like to read the story, Ebey, interesting analysis.

  • profile image


    5 years ago

    There are several things wrong with this analysis


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