This passage takes place when Dr. Sloper is near death. Despite being at the end of his life, he is still trying to assert control over Catherine. The novel has intensely examined the relationship between Catherine and Dr. Sloper and readers are able to see how for a majority of her life, Catherine relies on her father’s opinions for her actions. She seeks self-validation from him, but he has been disappointed with her since birth.
He constantly mistreated her, which is evident in the line “…that he was trying to treat her as he had treated her years before.” Dr. Sloper had very high expectations for Catherine, but none were met and therefore he was her harshest critic. Catherine constantly is in a struggle with herself, due to her father’s treatment of her. The wording in this passage shows how suffocating Dr. Sloper was to his daughter’s development. The narrator refers to Catherine as “having suffered from it then,” which is a reference to her father’s treatment of her as child.
The narrator also uses the word humble to describe Catherine’s youth, as she was constantly doubting herself and seeking approval from her father. The arrival of Morris Townsend into her life allows Catherine to see her father’s cruel and manipulative ways. It is in this passage that readers are able to see Catherine finally stand up for herself and stop seeking self-validation from her father. One of the major themes of the novel is the theme of betrayal and here it is apparent that Catherine feels betrayed by her father and he feels betrayed by her. The narrator makes it clear with his characterization of Catherine in this passage that she is tired of being controlled and pushed around by her father, by saying: “if you push far enough you could find Catherine’s dignity.
Her father had pushed very far.” She has been a pawn in his game and a slave under his control for too long, that she is finally gained the confidence to deny his requests. Her father, used to getting his way, feels betrayed, as though Catherine is choosing Morris Townsend over him. His only way to control Catherine at this point is financially, but even that is not enough anymore. Catherine’s resistance to her father in this passage marks the end of his control of her. She finally has sought self-validation in herself and has given herself the strength and “dignity” to deny her father’s request and eventually stand up to him.