Analysis of the Pupil by Henry James

The Pupil is a short story by Henry James, first published in Longman’s Magazine in 1891. It is the emotional story of a precocious young boy growing up in a mendacious and dishonorable family. He befriends his tutor, who is the only adult in his life that he can trust. James presents their relationship with sympathy and insight, and the story reaches what some would consider the status of classical tragedy.

In the passage from “the Pupil” by Henry James, the author depicts the 3 characters and their relationships toward each other in varying lights. Pemberton, Morgan Moreen and Mrs. Moreen is introduced here through dialogue and interaction with each other and the story uses variation of tone and the unique point of view from Pemberton to show his uncertainties and also to show the characteristics of the relationships. The use of detail also helps convene an image of how Mrs. Moreen looks like and how Morgan is.

Pemberton is being introduced here as Mrs. Moreen is here explaining to him everything he needed to know to tutor Morgan, everything except his salary. This in itself seems a bit what would be not normal, as seen by Pemberton’s nervousness and hesitation. From the reference to Nice, we can know that Pemberton is an Oxford graduate who is a “poor young man” and is thus looking for some form of money. Through this interaction, we can see that Mrs. Moreen is trying to hide something or be elusive and is not being frank to Pemberton about his wages and Pemberton is too nervous to speak up about it until the end, showing that his reluctance may due to the fact that he wanted to make money but then again, his employer might be too imposing to his character. Thus Pemberton’s relationship to Mrs. Moreen can simply be of an employee to an employer.

However the relationship of Mrs. Moreen to her son is quite different when she sends him to “fetch” her fan. She thinks very lowly of him and this is true when Pemberton says that she uttered things that a “boy of eleven shouldn’t catch.” Then she mentions a “weakness” with her son and from what Pemberton is thinking, we can gather that is some heart condition. This can help characterize Mrs. Moreen, who knows about her son’s condition and thus is hiring someone to educate her son and not discussing the wages, probably because she is not able to pay him. Mrs. Moreen’s relationship with Morgan is of a very loving parent who wants to teach Morgan things in life, even though he is at the “mercy of a weakness” and she is going to do this by hiring Pemberton and promising him that his wages will be “quite regular.” What is ironical and perhaps foreshadowing what will happen is when Pemberton says that people have varying perception of what is “quite regular.”

Pemberton and Morgan seems to share a special connection compared to the mother. When Morgan sees him first, he is giving Pemberton a look of confusion and looks straight at Pemberton for “taking his education in hand.” The first reaction or analysis of Pemberton is to teach Morgan how to address his mother in his response, not causally. Right away, Pemberton begins a role as a teacher without even fully taking charge of his pupil. Pemberton begins to analyze and connect the “dots” with Morgan, as to why he is not so “robust” and how he seems to look intelligent but a bit “unpleasant.” Right away Pemberton seems to connect to Morgan and Morgan to Pemberton and this is evident especially when Mrs. Morgan gets up to leave and Pemberton takes the job without a definite salary being promised to him, very unlikely for others in his field of work.

The whole tone of the passage is filled with curiosity as one character seems to probe and explore his new pupil and his family. From Pemberton’s point of view, we can see that Morgan is quite sickly boy that needs attention and that he is also intelligent and clever. Also from Pemberton’s point of view, we can understand that Mrs. Moreen’s family might not be so good because Morgan did not have a proper education as seen by his casual response to his mother. The dialogue between Pemberton and Mrs. Moreen also facilitates much of what happens in the story and sheds light onto Morgan, who is never directly involved in interaction with Pemberton.

Pemberton and Morgan seems to develop a new bond and Mrs. Moreen seems to be a bit shady character as she promises a salary but never defines exactly what it is. Pemberton’s point of view sheds light onto Morgan who is a very sickly character and Mrs. Moreen who seems to be a “large addable lady.” A very peculiar inquiring tone is seen in this passage by Henry James and Pemberton seems to be reluctant and at the same time enjoying this new charge that has been given to him. Overall, Henry James uses variety of techniques including Tone, Point of View and Dialogue to show the unique relationship between Pemberton, Mrs. Moreen and Morgan Moreen throughout his passage from the novel, “The Pupil.”

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  1. Ms. James
    Posted December 3, 2008 at 11:03 am

    I didn’t find this summary very accurate- read the book kids!

  2. Alisha Perella (AP LIT Student) Sr.
    Posted January 22, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    The only thing I noticed that was obviously questionable was the conflict between how the writer spoke of how lowly Mrs. Moreen “thinks” (more like speaks) of her son and the claim that “Mrs. Moreen’s relationship with Morgan is of a very loving parent who wants to teach Morgan things in life, even though he is at the “mercy of a weakness”.

    Maybe she speaks lowly of her son because it is part of her rouse – to maybe ensure to Pemberton that Morgan is VERY much needed by her son. After all one can love a son without being proud of his disposition;

    I haven’t read the novel, just a the first passage that we’re analyzing in class. So as to this article’s accuracy I cannot attest. However, I found it extremely useful in conjuction with textual evidence.

  3. T.S.A
    Posted March 3, 2009 at 9:09 pm

    Um, Morgan IS the son. Pemberton is the tutor. Read the story (it is not a book or novel; it is a short story).

    This is an answer to the 2004 AP English Lit Analysis question. I don’t recommend that anyone lift this directly, as it really doesn’t address the tone and point-of-view aspects of the prompt as it should. At best, its a fair jumping off point.

  4. Posted April 3, 2011 at 6:56 pm

    sorry despite the fact that your essay maybe of little help its not very accurate i suggest u read the short story and then write again if u wish, but u have a good sense of writing it is clearly depicted in your essay i’m sure if u write again u will sound better with more accurate information
    thanks though u were helpful in a way

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