Cat’s Eye

by

Margaret Atwood

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Josef Hrbik Character Analysis

The teacher of Elaine’s Life Drawing class, with whom she eventually has an affair. He is in his thirties at the time, and an émigré from Hungary, where he allegedly left behind a wife and two daughters. Often referred to as Mr. Hrbik, he seems to make a habit of having relationships with his students, as he also sleeps with Susie. He is melancholic and has a very romanticized view of how women should be. Although he appears to have some power over Elaine at the start of their affair, as he chooses her outfits, it is Elaine who walks away from him in the end; he appears to remain hung up on the relationship, as he creates a film about it.
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Josef Hrbik Character Timeline in Cat’s Eye

The timeline below shows where the character Josef Hrbik appears in Cat’s Eye. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part Four: Deadly Nightshade
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...had female mentors, Elaine says there were none and that her teacher was a man: Josef Hrbik, who was kind and taught her to draw naked women. Elaine says she does... (full context)
Part Seven: Our Lady of Perpetual Help
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...looks through the phone book, and doesn’t find any Campbells, or any other Risleys, or Josef Hrbik, or Cordelia. She remembers earlier on in her relationship to Jon, when she got... (full context)
Part Ten: Life Drawing
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Elaine takes the class Tuesdays at Toronto College of Art, taught by Mr. Hrbik , who admitted her to the class despite her mediocre portfolio. Elaine had tried to... (full context)
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The boys like to make fun of Mr. Hrbik for his Eastern European origins and refugee status. They call him Uncle Joe, and everyone... (full context)
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...she was too dumb to get into university. Susie seems to have special knowledge about Mr. Hrbik , which makes it clear that she’s been having an affair with him. (full context)
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...lives, whereas her nighttime life is her real life. At night, she observes Susie and Mr. Hrbik . Susie is two years older than Elaine at 21 and lives in a bachelorette... (full context)
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...knows, she becomes bolder in demonstrating her affections and starts referring to Mr. Hrbik as Josef and talking about him more often. Elaine feels like Mr. Hrbik must need rescuing or... (full context)
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Elaine meets Mr. Hrbik at a French restaurant, where they dine on wine and eat snails. During her individual... (full context)
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...if they were said by another man, but because she has fallen in love with Josef she finds it sweet—she has fallen in love with his need. Meanwhile, Elaine moves into... (full context)
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...her job and wants to talk to Elaine, who does not have much time. When Josef talks about Susie, he describes her as though she were a problem child. Susie wants... (full context)
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In her free time, Elaine paints furniture. Josef (as she now calls him) does not want to talk about the war or escaping... (full context)
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In August, Josef starts changing Elaine’s style. He picks clothing and hairstyles for her, and they go on... (full context)
Part Eleven: Falling Women
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...which reminds her of how dilapidated these buildings used to be. When she thinks of Josef, she feels like she understands his melancholy—she feels like she would have been frantic if... (full context)
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Elaine has continued to pursue a relationship with both Josef and Jon, and fallen in love with both of them. She keeps the two secret... (full context)
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...does not see women as “helpless flowers” or “shapes to be arranged” the way that Josef does, he categorizes them as smart or stupid. He considers Elaine “smarter than most,” which... (full context)
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Josef starts to feel suspicious and asks Elaine where she has been when she is not... (full context)
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Although Susie does not want her to tell Josef, Elaine does so anyway. When he finds out, and says he will never get over... (full context)
Part Twelve: One Wing
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Elaine walks past Josef’s old apartment and wonders what became of him. He made a film once that seemed... (full context)
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...at the roof bar of the Park Plaza Hotel, where she used to go with Josef. They don’t speak much at dinner, unlike at lunch, because they both already know why... (full context)
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...but does not confront him at once.  Jon confronts her about her previous relationship with Josef, and they fight. Elaine starts to get sick more often and paint less. She does... (full context)
Part Fourteen: Unified Field Theory
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...order: the early paintings characterized by Charna as female symbolism, the paintings of Jon and Josef, Mrs. Smeath. She tries to see her childhood self in Mrs. Smeath’s eyes, and recognizes... (full context)