Henry James’s The Pupil opens with Pemberton, a broke young man, meeting with Mrs. Moreen, the mother of a boy he will be teaching. He also meets the boy himself, Morgan. Morgan isn’t healthy, and therefore not fit for school, but his parents still want the best education for him. His father admits this when discussing Pemberton’s rate of pay upon his return home from traveling.
As Pemberton comes to know Morgan, he increasingly likes him; his parents, brother and two sisters, he likes less. The family travels to Nice and Morgan encourages Pemberton to leave the family, as he knows how they can be, but Pemberton likes Morgan and he stays on.
The Moreens don’t pay Pemberton, and he is having difficulty living. He tells Mrs. Moreen, who encourages him to write articles or translate, but he says he wouldn’t earn enough.
Morgan knows they’re not paying Pemberton, and he’s upset. He remembers a nurse that the same thing happened to, and Pemberton tries to soothe him. He suggests they live together somewhere else, and Morgan would love to, because he knows what his family is like, and he prefers Pemberton.
The Moreens become poor, and Pemberton takes a job tutoring another boy whose parents can easily pay him. Morgan is supportive, and Pemberton leaves, hoping to one day be able to support Morgan. Then Mrs. Moreen writes to tell Pemberton that Morgan is very ill, and Pemberton leaves his new pupil and returns back to Morgan. He discovers that Morgan is not, in fact, ill, yet he likes Morgan so much that he stays and begins tutoring him again.
The Moreens, once again desperate for money, ask Pemberton to take Morgan and raise him. They simply cannot afford to. Pemberton and Morgan are delighted—this is what they’ve always wanted. And yet, before it can happen, Morgan’s heart finally gives out, and he dies.
Needing money, Pemberton agrees to become the resident tutor of the eleven-year-old Morgan Moreen, whose heart condition prevents him from attending school. Pemberton’s initial impression of Morgan is not favorable; though the child seems intelligent, he is not physically attractive and looks as if “he might be unpleasant.”
Soon, though, Morgan is the only member of the family whom Pemberton does like. He must threaten to leave before the Moreens pay him even a portion of the salary they owe him, and eventually he tutors for free simply because he has grown fond of his pupil. They become so close that Pemberton suggests that they “ought to go off and live somewhere together.”
Morgan is as eager as Pemberton to leave his family, whom both recognize as adventurers, gypsies who repeatedly move from city to city and hotel to hotel because they cannot or will not pay their bills. The family finances eventually become so desperate that, in Venice,...
(The entire section contains 745 words.)
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