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

By Elizabeth Allen

A whole size learn of James' use of the "American lady" heroine in his novels, from Daisy Miller via Isabel Archer to Milly Theale and Maggie Verver.

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Sample text

Howells attempted various solutions in his early novels. Lydia Blood in The Lady cif the Aroostook shames her lover Staniford into admiration of her individual and independent moral virtue, yet even this fairly conventional relationship of subject and moral arbiter can be sustained beyond courtship only by sending them to enjoy their married life out West- far and strange enough for the imagination to conceive some kind of moral equality in marriage which will not be too consistently undermined by the existence of woman as object in marriage.

6), the 'great Western Barbarian stepping forth in his innocence and might, gazing a while at this poor effete Old World and then swooping down on it' (p. 34). He signifies the material wealth of America, its raw energy and individualism. R. W. Butterfield, in his essay on The American refers to the readings of the text which find Newman incredible and unreal as a specific and historical individual. ' 13 The conception ofNewman is 'as much generic and allegorical as it is specific and realistic'.

Her child, Pearl, is as strange, vivid and impenetrable as the letter-she cries out for interpretation and understanding, yet Hester, whose child she is, cannot understand her. The signifying activity is produced by Hester, to some extent controlled by her, yet she is also alienated from it- perhaps because it does not take place for her benefit, it is not really hers. Though we see Hester develop as subject and range in thought far beyond her society, we also see that this development cannot be communicated outwards because it has no name, no recognition in the social world.

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