Themes

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 159

A major theme is the destructive effects of vanity. Vanity causes Kate's father to retain possession of the land and money due his children, with the result that they all hate him. Likewise Kate's vanity leads her to lose her favorite hat, refuse her most eligible suitor, and ignore both...

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A major theme is the destructive effects of vanity. Vanity causes Kate's father to retain possession of the land and money due his children, with the result that they all hate him. Likewise Kate's vanity leads her to lose her favorite hat, refuse her most eligible suitor, and ignore both her own instincts and her friends' warnings about George Holt. Vanity also causes George to undertake tasks he is incapable of performing and so to destroy the lumber mill and himself.

Another important theme is the character-building effect of adversity. Kate's struggles increase her ingenuity, compassion, and strength of character. Her failures teach her the value of work as an antidote for grief.

An underlying theme is the value of independence. Kate is admirable because she thinks for herself and asserts her right to an education, a career, and a business. Mrs. Bates meets criticism with humor, commenting that the neighbors will always gossip, so she will please herself.

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