Henry James The Funeral Diction

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In “The Funeral,” author Henry James evinces the narrator’s inflated sense of self through a lampoon of the lower class—primarily via tones of irreverent degradation and supercilious condescension. Amidst the impoverished masses, the speaker finds himself intrigued by their dejected existence and paltry attempt to mourn the death of Mr. George Odger, a humble shoemaker. [add another sentence] Riddled with insouciance, haughtiness, and patronization, the author’s diction divulges the pompous outlook of the narrator. For instance, the onlooker continually mocks the “spectacle” of the funeral that he describes as one he “[would] have been sorry to miss.” Rather than expressing pity for the loss of an honorable man, he is instead merely concerned …show more content…

Particularly, the speaker profiles Mr. Odger as a man engaged in “the useful profession of shoemaker” who “knocked in vain at the door that opens but to golden keys.” Here he obliquely patronizes Mr. Odger through the implication that the lower class should adhere to the bounds of their existing social status. Thus, the narrator retains a parochial view of the poor: any attempt on their behalf to transcend social hierarchy is a ludicrous notion. Following the narrator’s escape from the crowd into a hansom cab, he describes himself witnessing the affair as if “from a box at a play.” Notably, box seats are reserved for the opulent who can afford the luxury of sitting above the general audience. Painting himself this way, he generates the image of being literally higher than the attendees in a physical sense (paralleling his higher rank in society). This notion of supremacy manifests by the same token as he recounts his initial arrival: “I emerged accidentally into Piccadilly[...]” Whilst clarifying that his attendance to the funeral is purely by chance—as a means to limit his association with the poor—his “[emergence]” from the mob evokes suggestive imagery of Jesus emerging from his burial tomb. Rendering himself as a possessor of divine status, the speaker’s hubris becomes glaringly

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