Outsiders in Capote's "The Grass Harp"

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The narrator and protagonist of The Grass Harp is Collin Fenwick, who comes to live with the Talbo sisters after being orphaned at eleven. Overwhelmed by his mother's death and his father's violent emotional reaction, Collin is already emotionally isolated when Verena Talbo arrives to assume control of his life. This sensitive boy, who is throughly intimidated by Verena, initially is the outsider in the Talbo household, until eventually Dolly and Catherine provide the family ties for which he has been searching. The events of the novel, most of which take place when Collin is sixteen, help him learn to see the truth about himself and his relationships with others. Nevertheless, perhaps because Dolly is the most important influence in his personality development, Collin remains an outsider in the town, never becoming a man of business like Riley Henderson or a political figure like Junius Candle—two characters who seem to serve as foils for him. Although Dolly Talbo at first has her doubts about the wisdom of trying to raise Collin in a household of women, she soon accepts him, allowing him to accompany her and Catherine on their excursions to the River Woods to gather roots and herbs. Dolly's mail order customers write to praise her "dropsy cure," but her shyness makes her an outsider in the town. Most of her neighbors consider her mentally slow, and her eccentric behavior has been the subject of comment even before she and her friends run away from home to live in a tree-house. Although she has never before opposed Verena's "household rules," Dolly refuses to allow exploitation of "the cure" she insists that she must have one thing that belongs to her alone and that this formula is the only thing she has ever kept from her sister. Despite her influence in the town, Verena Talbo is doubly an outsider. The townspeople respect and fear her, but really they
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