The Charm of Henry James Essay

The Charm of Henry James Essay

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Henry James, one of America¡¯s major novelists and critics, has produced many great works, such as Portrait of a Lady, The Wings of the Dove, The Golden Bowel and The Ambassadors. His method of characterization is ¡°a complete objectification of characters.¡±¢Ùand he focuses on the inner life of characters rather than external action and environment to explore the mind and inner activities of the characters through their dialogues, mental conflicts, thoughts on man and events instead of the complex plot. So his writings do not present readers a series of events as traditional novels do. Especially in his final and ¡°major phase¡±, the very subtlety and complexity of characterization is almost to deliberately depicting degree. Thus people call him a psychological realist and consider him as the founder of psychological realism. James believes that reality lies in the impressions made by life on the spectator, and not in any facts of which the spectator is unaware. So by making the conscious part of the artist the final measure of experience, James shifts the ground of realistic art from the outer to the inner world. His short story Paste is one of typical examples reflecting his such writing techniques and theories on literary creation.

The plot of the story is quite simple. A governess, Charlotte Prime, attends the funerals of her uncle, a vicar, and his second wife. The couple died within a month of each other. The Vicar¡¯s son, Arthur Prime, gives his cousin Charlotte some cheap costume jewelry which had belonged to his stepmother from her pre-marital career as an actress. Among the old jewels, a pearl necklace strikes Charlotte as having some value, alt...


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...for driving ambition, a lust for money and power. ¢ßAnyhow, Charlotte¡¯s shocked awareness and questions in the end of the story leave us readers much space to think. James ends the story like this, which may vaguely hint us on the one hand the betrayal of innocence on the other hand the hope of innocence. But this is quite ambiguous which is just a good example of Jamesian style. For James never tells us things directly by himself but let us readers make our own judge by ourselves

Notes:

¢ÙA Short History of English Literature P456

¢ÚModern American Literature P12-13

¢ÛModern American Literature P11

¢ÜAn Introduction to American Literature P315

¢ÝA Survey of American Literature P173

¢ÞClass Notes by Prof Xiao

¢ßA Survey of American Literature P159

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