What did you learn about Austin Sloper in the first chapter of the novel? Based on these first 4 pages, did you find him sympathetic? Why or why not?
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In Chapter 1, we find out that Austin Sloper is a very bright, prominent doctor in New York. He is honest, often to a faulty, and incredibly intelligent. We also find out that he has had one true love in his life. Catherine Harrington is gentle, clever, and kind. Unfortunately, the doctor is unable to save his three year old son. Two years later, he is unable to save his wife when she gives birth to their daughter. Tragedy seems to follow poor Doctor Sloper.
As an audience, we are inclined to feel sympathetic towards Austin Sloper. He seems tragic, destined to save others at the cost of his own family. However, the author leads us to a few reservations about Dr. Sloper that keeps us from being fully sympathetic. The description of his daughter as an "inadequate substitution" for the young deceased son, for instance, removes some of our sympathy, as does the statement that he tried to make the best of it, and that he did not fear losing her "such as she was." These statement diffuse our sympathy and make us guarded against the good doctor, seeing the potential for coming conflict.
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