A Woman’s Place in the Novels of Henry James by Elizabeth Allen

By Elizabeth Allen

An entire size examine of James' use of the "American woman" heroine in his novels, from Daisy Miller via Isabel Archer to Milly Theale and Maggie Verver.

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And in A Foregone Conclusion he attempts to retain Florida Vervain's qualities of pride and independence in marriage by redirecting them towards her children, which can suitably be objects to her as she is now to her husband. Henry Adams runs into the same kind of problem in his two novels Esther (I 884) and Democracy (I 88o). His two heroines are endowed with an essentially American morality, one which actively criticises the society around it rather than simply maintaining the Christian standards which justify the society without revealing its contradictions.

In the succession the crown passed from the puritan maiden to the romantic rebel and finally to the American girl ... The touted freedom and originality of this new dynasty proved illusory, however; the paradoxical power of the girl's Woman in the Nineteenth Century 'audacious innocence' was revealed at the last as an improbable crossing of earlier lines of descent, an unstable synthesis of the rebel's dangerous pursuit of self-culture and the maiden's indulgence in morbid renunciations. 41 The pursuit of self-culture was dangerous indeed to the status of woman as defined by social structures.

From the initial chapters in which Newman, as the great Western 48 A Woman's Place in the Novels rif Henry James Barbarian, swoops down on the society of Europe, the book develops in structure into a tug of war between American and European power over the spoils that Claire represents. The satire is fairly equally divided between the corrupt aristocracy, overobservant of form, and the brash materialism which tends to treat the world as a shop, people as articles and human potential as uninvested capital.

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