The Bostonians, by Henry James was a very interesting piece. James' underlying tone for the spiritualism and fascination is clearly a picture of the time when the piece was written. I thought that is played an important influence in his writing. Ruth Hall, by Fanny Fern is an unofficial biography of her own life as a women activist. One of the underlying issues that stand out in her novel is the way that she includes the lower-class women right along with the middle-class. This was not a common ideal shared by all women activists at this time. Both of these underlying issues in these books keep the reader interested it their works.
During the nineteenth-century fascination and spiritualism were very prevalent in society. You can see James' attraction to these forms of power and healing by his continual reference to Dr. Selah Tarrant, Verena's father. In The Bostonians, Dr. Tarrant was introduced as a healer, almost as a freak. James does his best to attempt to portray Dr. Tarrant as an oddball, but continually brings him up throughout the novel. This shows James' fascination with the aspect of spiritual healing and how powerful he believes it can be. It almost gives the reader the sense that the powerful and influential people of the time did not want to openly practice these beliefs, but did so under the manner of their own homes or in some private forum.
Another aspect of his fascination can be seen in how James portrays Dr. Tarrant's daughter, Verena. She is almost given a mesmerizing power by James, to control the people around her. Verena does not use this power intentionally, but it just naturally comes out in her efforts for the women movement. She draws Olive Chancellor,...
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...o conform to society and not rock the boat. But Fanny Fern seems to stretch these rules to the limit. She can get her point across effectively while not upsetting the standards set out for them.
Both of these books, The Bostonians, and Ruth Hall, were easy to read and understand. However, The Bostonians was much longer than it needed to be. The underlying themes in these books are what make them interesting. James, with his fascination of spiritualism, and Fern with her introduction of women's rights for all classes are very interesting because they show the real views of people at the time in the form of a story. Without the underlying theme in The Bostonians, I would have found the book a little drawn out and boring. But Ruth Hall, I found very interesting. It was Fern's look at her life and all the issues surrounding her movement that kept me entranced.
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