Study Guide

The Monstrumologist Pride

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He dropped the necklace into a tray and called for the scissors. To the devil with him, I thought. Let him fetch his own scissors. He called again, his back to me, hand outstretched, bloody fingers flexing and curling. I rose from the stool with a shuddering sigh and pressed the scissors into his hand. (1.103)

Even though he's not as scientifically inclined, Will Henry has too much professional pride in his position to not do as the doctor asks.

Should I confess that I looked away? That I could not will my eyes to remain upon that glittering blade as it sliced into her flawless flesh? For all my desire to please and impress him with my steely resolve as a good foot soldier in the service of science, nothing could bring me to watch what came next. (1.110)

… And then his professional pride was not enough to make him watch the awful abortion of the Anthropophagus fetus. And who can blame him? He is, after all, a twelve-year-old boy, not some hardened monstrumologist.

"It is you, Will Henry, you who must carry on my work. I have no family and shall have none. You must be my memory. You must bear the burden of my legacy. Will you promise me that all will not have been in vain?" (2.21)

When Dr. Warthrop suffers from his depressive episodes, he often fixates on the fact that despite all of his toils no one will ever recognize all that he's accomplished. His life's work has to be done in the shadows, which isn't easy for a man who is inordinately prideful. So it's very important to him that at least Will Henry recognizes all of his achievements and will strive to carry on with the family occupation.

The old man's head whipped around, and he frowned at the sight of me huddled next to the shrouded girl. He cast a baleful eye upon the doctor.

"The boy is coming with us?"

Dr. Warthrop nodded impatiently. "Of course he is."

"Begging your pardon, doctor, but this is no business for a child."

"Will Henry is my assistant," the doctor replied with a smile. He gave my head a paternal pat. "A child by outward appearance, perhaps, but mature beyond his years and hardier than he might seem to the unfamiliar eye. His services are indispensable to me." (2.139-143)

Could the "paternal pat" be interpreted as pride? Either he is proud of his brave ward or he is exaggerating what he's capable of because he's worried Erasmus won't accept his assistant coming with them.

If the doctor had known what horrors awaited us not only at the cemetery that night, but in the days to come, would he still have insisted upon my company? Would he still have demanded that a mere child dive so deep into the well of human suffering and sacrifice—a literal sea of blood? And if the answer to that question is yes, then there are more terrifying monstrosities in the world than Anthropophagi. Monstrosities who, with a smile and a comforting pat on the head, are willing to sacrifice a child upon the altar of their own overweening ambition and pride. (2.149)

We think that Dr. Warthrop might have been in a bit of denial about what he was walking into. Surely he wasn't prepared to be attacked by a large group of the creatures, let alone have their guide get devoured in a half-dug grave while his twelve-year-old assistant watched.

What more need I say about this odd and solitary figure, this genius who labored all his life in obscurity in the most obscure of sciences, whom the world would little note nor long remember, but to whom the world owed much, this man who possessed, it seemed, not the slightest shred of humility or warmth, who lacked empathy and compassion and the ability to read men's hearts—or the heart of a twelve-year-old boy whose world had been shattered in an awful instant? To bring up my father in a moment like this! What more may I offer as evidence of my hypothesis that this man's hubris rose to heights—or sunk to depths—rarely seen outside the confines of Greek theater or the tragedies of Shakespeare? He did not equivocate with me. He did not couch his words in comforting bromides or shopworn clichés. He had saved my life because my life was important to him. He had saved my life for his sake, for the furtherance of his ambition. Thus even his mercy was rooted in his ego. (4.53)

It's interesting that he refers to Greek theater when he describes Dr. Warthrop's hubris. In Green plays, characters who suffer from hubris are often punished by the gods in very creative ways. Is there any comeuppance that Dr. Warthrop receives as a result of his pride and self-absorption?

He was terrified of his own mortality; like many, he saw his impending death as an affront to his dignity, the ultimate insult, and his last few years were consumed by his desire to cheat the natural order, or at least wrest from death's icy embrace a scant moment or two beyond his due. (4.94)

Death can deal quite the blow to someone's pride, particularly if they are being confronted by their mortality for the first time. So when Alistair Warthrop finally acknowledged that he was dying, he was afraid—this wasn't supposed to happen to him, and he felt he was supposed to always be in control of his life.

I might have asked why discovery was undesirable in this instance, but everything in his demeanor suggested the answer to that question was obvious. I suspect now the answer had more to do with his discovery of his father's possible involvement than with the hazard of setting off a firestorm of panic. The doctor was more concerned with his father's reputation—and, by extension, his own—than the public welfare. (5.32)

Dr. Warthrop attaches a considerable amount of pride to his last name and the reputation it entails. If everyone found out about the Anthropophagi, and that his father had been responsible, the name "Warthrop" would forever be associated with terror and violence. So instead of disclosing what he knows to proper authorities, he keeps it under wraps—and the Stinnets pay the price.

"Stop that insufferable sniveling. I did not take you in to be my cook or my nursemaid or for any reason beyond the obligation I owed your father for his unselfish service. You have potential, Will Henry. You are clever and inquisitive and are not without some mettle in your marrow, indispensable qualities in an assistant and, perhaps, a future scientist, but don't suffer under any illusions that you are more than that: an assistant forced upon me by unfortunate circumstances. You are not here to provide for me; I am here to provide for you. Now finish this fine soup of which you are so inexplicably proud, and get to the carriage house to ready our horses. We leave at nightfall." (5.91)

Dr. Warthrop is scolding Will Henry for having the decency to cook them both some soup when his instructions were for Will Henry to feed himself. He eventually sees that it's a ridiculous thing to be mad about, and so he's forced to give this roundabout apology (because believe it or not, that's what this lecture was intended to be) because it is the best his pride will allow.

The unfortunate Mr. Gray should keep them satisfied, at least for another day or two. Words spoken with the characteristic self-assurance that often was mistaken for arrogance—or would it not be a mistake to call it that? I would be less than honest if I said I understood this man to whom I owe so much, this man who took the homeless, orphaned boy I was and sculpted him into the man I became. How oft do they rescue or ruin us, through whimsy or design or a combination of both, the adults to whom we entrust our care! The truth I confess is that I understand him not. Even with the gift of much time and the perspective it grants us, I still do not understand Dr. Pellinore Xavier Warthrop. Did he honestly accept the premise that he was blameless for this horrific slaughter of six innocents? What convolutions and contortions of logic did he employ to ignore the symbolic significance of the Stinnets' blood upon his hands? (8.79)

Arrogance and pride go hand in hand, but sometimes arrogance can be a cover for hidden insecurities. Dr. Warthrop has acted completely sure that the Anthropophagi won't attack again for days, but maybe he's just been trying too hard to convince himself of that theory.

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