in Three Clerks

Chapter 31 – Mrs. Woodward’s Request


When Katie pleads with Linda to reveal to her why Mrs. Woodward won’t let Charley come to Surbiton Cottage any longer, the narrator says that Katie kneels, rests on her sister, and even cries. The narrator then refers to Katie as a “suppliant,” because her behavior and position in this scene are like those of suppliants in ancient literature. Physical supplication is a common gesture found in the mythological literature of ancient Greece and Rome involving someone begging a god or powerful figure for mercy or goodwill (e.g., Thetis begging Zeus in book 1 of Homer’s Iliad). The description of Katie in this scene shows both her desperation in her situation and her devotion to Charley. [GZ 2016]