March 19, 2009

Look here

"Both she and her brother, however, exaggerated the young girl's limitations; for Catherine, though she was very fond of her aunt, and conscious of the gratitude she owed her, regarded her without a particle of that gentle dread which gave its stamp to her admiration of her father. To her mind there was nothing of the infinite about Mrs. Penniman; Catherine saw her all at once, as it were, and was not dazzled by the apparition; whereas her father's great faculties seemed, as they stretched away, to lose themselves in a sort of luminous vagueness, which indicated, not that they stopped, but that Catherine's own mind ceased to follow them."
--from Washington Square
Never underestimate the lowly. Poor Catherine; she is a decent observer of character and recognizes greatness when she sees it, but everyone around her just looks at her and sees a simpleton.

It occurred to me today that the lowliest of the low still have eyes and ears; oftentimes their bottom-of-the-rung state gives them a clearer vision of what's really going on. Which is why, if I ever become a boss, I am going to make it a point to ask an intern what he or she honestly thinks of the full-time employees (at the end of the internship, of course, when it wouldn't be awkward for him or her to return to work after pointing out a superior's weaknesses). The view from the bottom speaks volumes about those up top.

1 comment:

Christine said...

The problem is that those at the top also incur more resentment, especially among those at the bottom who are themselves resentful of their "lowly status". I see the importance of feedback, but I don't agree with your assessment of Catherine. I hated her as I was reading the novel and even now the thought of her makes me shudder. I can't help it! It made her more despicable in my eyes that she "recognized greatness" but didn't have the capacity/courage/desire to reconcile it with her own life. When she chooses to be courageous and defy her father, it is ironically (or maybe not, depending on how much faith you have in Catherine) the most ill-advised moment of her life (though it may be her own personal victory).

haha ok enough spouting off about Catherine - I do like James though. :) Been reading Elizabeth Bowen lately - she is a master.