By Elizabeth Allen

ISBN-10: 1349174696

ISBN-13: 9781349174690

ISBN-10: 1349174718

ISBN-13: 9781349174713

An entire size learn 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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Sample text

The action emphasised here is fundamental to Newman's function; he is not 'seen' as a passive object by observers, he initiates action and we are continually told how he hates leisure, cannot relax, and believes that: 'words were acts and acts were steps in life' (p. 3 I 5). To free him for action, he needs his existence to be rendered intelligible by the structures of signification which European culture appears to hold out. Claire de Cintre, as woman, is, like Mrs Tristram, the instrument of mediation, the woman who, as sign, can signify to and for Newman, interpreting the world to him and him to the world.

As the American individual, Newman confronts a formal, traditional aristocratic European society; yet there exists a second dichotomy which modifies Newman's existence as individual vulnerable to the response of the social world he encounters. In Chapter 1, I described how within America itself a division was seen to exist between men 'doing' and making money, and women 'representing' culture and thus the cultural products of money, functioning both as consumers and products. In The American, the money/culture split is defined partly as American/European, but also as male/female.

There are meanings in plenty but she obstinately, yet passively, refuses to signify any of them adequately. She is neither the romantic heroine nor the sensible, obedient, practical girl who will accept the suitable offer for her hand. This miscorrespondence more than anything else exposes through the questions it raises the complete dependence of the girl on her fulfillment of a recognised structure of signification, and this dependence clashes with her possession in the text ofthe qualities of the independent, American individual.

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


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