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Tales of Henry James: The Texts of the Stories, the Author on His Craft, Background and Criticism Summary & Study Guide Description
Tales of Henry James: The Texts of the Stories, the Author on His Craft, Background and Criticism Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:
This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on Tales of Henry James: The Texts of the Stories, the Author on His Craft, Background and Criticism by Henry James.
Daisy Millerappears in Daisy Miller: A Study
Daisy Miller is a young American woman of about seventeen who is traveling in Europe with her mother and young brother. Her father, a wealthy financier, remains at home in New York. Because of his wealth, Daisy is able to wear the finest fashions from Paris, although she favors girlish frills and ruffles. Daisy's mother is in poor health and prefers not to accompany her daughter on her many outings. She seems to implicitly trust Daisy's integrity and virtue. In European society, integrity and virtue are beside the point — appearances are what matter.
Daisy is fresh, innocent and lovely in an unspoiled way. She has no pretenses, and acts on her genuine feelings. She openly flirts when men that she finds attractive, something that is forbidden in the strict social climate of Geneva at the time. She is friendly with people she finds interesting, even when they are not as wealthy as her father.
Daisy makes friends with a number of young men in Europe, and can often been seen innocently strolling with them in public parks or streets. This is scandalous behavior for a young European woman, who might have a lover in private but would never flirt in public. Friends are shocked when Daisy agrees to an evening sightseeing trip by boat to a ruined castle, alone with Mr. Winterbourne, whom she has just met. Despite her unconventional behavior, Daisy is entirely innocent and would probably be right at home in most modern high schools.
Pembertonappears in The Pupil
Pemberton is the quintessential weak, ineffective male Jamesan "hero", perhaps more properly referred to as a main character. Although he has graduated with honors from both Yale and Oxford, arguably the two most prestigious universities in the U.S. and Europe, he is afraid that the twelve-year-old student will be smarter than he is. Pemberton is too frightened to ask Mrs. Moreen what his salary will be, and when he is not paid, he is too scared to ask for it for several months.
Part of Pemberton's difficulty is that he is homosexual, which is absolutely forbidden in the Victorian era. He feels no attraction to the pupil's older sisters, or any other woman, and he is positively terrified of Mrs. Moreen. In addition, he is sexually attracted to his male student, Morgan Moreen, who is about a decade younger. Pemberton is probably not a pedophile. He seems immature for his chronological age, and may well be developmentally or socially his pupil's equal. However, then as now, society frowns upon intimate relations between students and teachers, and Pemberto must conceal this attraction while becoming more emotionally involved with his young charge.
Even when crisis looms, Pemberton is unable to act decisively to save his young charge. In fact, his indecision and timidity is read as reluctance, and his young student dies of heartbreak. One of James' greatest contributions to literature is the concept that milquetoast, humorless characters like Pemberton, as annoying as they can be, may be suitable subjects for narratives.
Miss Juliana Bordereauappears in Aspern Papers
James' work is littered with strong, fascinating women who are incidental to his stories about weak, ineffective young men. Miss Juliana Bordereau is perhaps the best example. When she appears in the narrative, Miss Juliana is ancient and wizened, her compelling eyes blinded and shielded by a green eyeshade or bandages. In her youth, Miss Juliana was the mistress of the famous American poet Jeffery Aspern. As his muse, she inspired much of his poetry and their illicit love affair was legendary.
Now impoverished, Miss Juliana lives with her middle-aged niece — who may actually be her illegitimate daughter and therefore Aspern's child — in Venice, the most romantic of cities. The two live in a crumbling palace that like Miss Juliana herself, is still beautiful and romantic. In contrast to her great passion for Aspern, Miss Juliana is greedy and grasping, charging her boarder much more than the rooms are worth. She also tries to sell him a miniature portrait of Aspern, at a price far higher than market value. This greed may be an essential part of her character. After all, she pursued Aspern — greedy for his passion — when it was socially unacceptable for her to do so. Alternately, the greed may simply stem from her poverty and urge to provide for her niece. The reader may long to know more about Miss Juliana's fascinating life as the great artist's paramour and an independent woman in Victorian Europe, but James instead focuses on a male character so weak and ineffective that he doesn't even have a name.
Morgan Moreen appears in The Pupil
Morgan Moreen is the twelve-year-old boy that Pemberton takes on as tutor. The youngest in a family of pretentious, extravagant Americans who live flamboyantly and dishonestly, the child recognizes them for what they are — morally bankrupt pretenders. Morgan is more intelligent than other members of his family, but even more important, he has an inborn sense of honor and moral code that is far superior to his family's. He is so noble that when his beloved tutor is offered a better job, Morgan urges him to take it for his own good, even though it will leave the boy alone with his despicable family.
Brooksmithappears in Brooksmith
Brooksmith is the refined, well-educated but short butler of Mr. Offord. With consummate skill, he selects the participants in Mr. Offord's famous salon, ensuring that misunderstanding are avoided and conversation flows smoothly. When Mr. Offord dies, Brooksmith is crushed because he has lost his best friend and the intellectual stimulation of the salon.
The Monarchsappears in The Real Thing
Major and Mrs. Monarch are supposedly "the real thing", born to gentile upper-class British life. They look the part. Both are tall, good-looking and have excellent posture. The major has a full moustache, and a hand-tailored suit. His wife is well-groomed and beautifully dressed. They are accustomed to visiting friends at their country houses. Now in need of money, they appeal to an illustrator to use them as models for his work, with unexpected results.
Mr. Winterbourneappears in Daisy Miller: A Study
Mr. Winterbourne is the narrator of the story, a twenty-seven-year old man who lives in Geneva. He is represented as both a student and a young man having an affair with an older, married woman. Visiting his aunt in the resort town of Vevey, he meets Daisy Miller. She is a young American woman completely unlike the European women he knows, and he cannot understand her or clearly categorize her. Compared to Daisy Miller, Winterbourne is glum, stodgy, formal, weak and no fun at all.
Duncombeappears in The Middle Years
Duncombe is the author of the novel The Middle Years. He is past middle age, and convalescing from an unspecified serious illness. Duncombe was married, but his wife and son are dead. He feels that he has just reached his full powers as a writer, and his greatest wish is to have a second chance at life, to write more books. Unfortunately, his health deteriorates and his wish is not to come true.
Dr. Hughappears in The Middle Years
Dr. Hugh is an M.D. who has recently graduated from medical school. He is working as personal physician to the wealthy, obese Countess when he meets Duncombe, an author he greatly admires. Dr. Hugh develops an intense friendship with Duncombe and eventually leaves the Countess, giving up rights to an inheritance from her, to be with Duncombe.
The Telegraphistappears in In the Cage
The unnamed telegraph operator is the main character of In the Cage. A slender young woman, she works in a post office branch inside an upscale grocery store in a posh London neighborhood. She is engaged to a stodgy grocer, but puts off the wedding because she finds entertainment in the personal lives of the ladies and gentlemen who send daily telegrams to each other. In the process, she develops a crush on dashing Captain Everard, who is having an affair with a married woman, Lady Bradeen.
Captain Everardappears in In the Cage
Captain Phillip Everard is a gentleman who frequently sends telegrams from the local post office. In doing so, he inadvertently shares details of his personal life with the young female telegraphist, who falls in love with him. Captain Everard does not return the girl's affections and tries to avoid her after she reveals her feelings. He is well-born, but has little money and large gambling debts.
Lady Bradeenappears in In the Cage
Lady Bradeen is a beautiful, petite English lady. Although married to the wealthy Lord Bradeen, she is having an illicit affair with Captain Everard. They frequently send each other coded telegrams. When the telegraphist corrects one of her telegrams, she realizes that the young woman knows everything. Lord Bradeen soon discovers the affair, but dies before he can make the scandal public. Lady Bradeen marries her dashing lover.
John Marcherappears in The Beast In the Jungle
John Marcher is a tall, well-born but inconspicuous gentleman with a small inheritance. He works in a government office in London. His life is dominated by his belief that he is special and is fated to experience some unique, possibly disastrous event. He avoids falling in love, marrying and having children in anticipation of this mysterious event, which never happens.
May Bartramappears in The Beast in the Jungle
May is the faithful friend of John Marcher, the only person that he has ever told about his obsessive belief in his destiny. She loves him, and lives simply in a small house in London on a meager inheritance. It is May who first realizes that the great event in John Marcher's life is that nothing noteworthy happens to him.
Spenser Brydon appears in The Jolly Corner
Spenser Brydon is a fifty-six-year-old American man who has lived in Europe for the past thirty-three years. He returns to New York after the long absence, and is amazed by the changes. This move sparks a deep insecurity in Brydon, and he begins to wonder what he would have been like if he had stayed in New York and become a wealthy businessman instead of living in Europe as an art-lover and a bit of a dreamer.
Miss Stavertonappears in The Jolly Corner
Miss Staverton lives in a modest house on a small street in New York. She is carefully frugal, and manages to live on a small inheritance. Like Brydon, she is a devotee of arts and culture, who has pursued a life of the mind rather than marrying and having children. Still, she is devoted to Brydon, whether he is a dreamer or a businessman.
This section contains 1,801 words
(approx. 5 pages at 400 words per page)