To sympathize or to not…

Kitty is the epitome of a complicated and complex woman, as she struggles with maintaining an ostentatious façade for the public while repressing her internal pain. Although Kitty has endured hardship and tragedy, there is an element of judgment that West uses, which provokes the reader from completely sympathizing with her character. West uses Kitty as a tactic to cultivate the question to readers of whether or not she deserves wrath or sympathy.

Kitty is initially presented as a woman of high class and beauty, full of cold heartedness and pitilessness. This is shown in the scene when Margaret arrives to share the news about Chris and his amnesia, as Kitty gives her the time of day solely because she “wants to be kind to people while Chis is away… [and] wants to deserve well of Heaven” (52). This in itself begins to unravel the judgment that West is attempting to get readers to feel towards Kitty- Is kindness really kindness if there are selfish motives at hand? Jenny, the unreliable narrator, goes on to describe Kitty as a “splendid bird of prey” and hopes she will let Margaret go without “scarring her too much with words” (56). Kitty and her seemingly heartless self are exposed in this interaction, as Margaret has simply come to do a good deed and is completely mistreated for her compassion. At this point, as a result Kitty’s coldness, readers are challenged to sympathize with her character.

To play Devil’s Advocate, you would have to take into consideration all that Kitty has been through over the last years. She has lost her sweet baby boy, she has lost her husband to the war, and now his ex-lover shows up to announce that he has no recollection of whom she is. The poor woman “dressed in all respects like a bride” just to impress him on his arrival (66), and if that’s not complete desperation, I don’t know what is. Kitty is in a mad spiral of desperation to win her husband back (rightfully so), which leads her to show weakness, therefore tugging on reader’s heartstrings. It seems to me that although there is no excuse for mean-heartedness, Kitty is simply repressing many internal struggles, which have invited me to ultimately sympathize with her.

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