This section contains 1,289 words
(approx. 4 pages at 400 words per page)
Prince Amerigo is the leading male character of this novel. He is the descendant of former, but now defunct, Italian royalty. The Prince is named after Amerigo Vespucci, the same man after whom the country of America is named. The Prince is described as an attractive man, one to whom many women have been attracted. One of his former lovers is Charlotte Stant, a woman who re-appears in London shortly before the Prince's marriage to Maggie Verver, the daughter of a wealthy collector. Although the Prince and Charlotte had considered marriage, their lack of money prohibited this union. It is stated in the novel that the Prince is one who could not live without money. While his marriage to Maggie provides him with plenty of money, it also provides Maggie's father with another bit of living history to add to his collection. Since his wife spends more time with her father than with her husband, the Prince winds up re-initiating his relationship with Charlotte. After Maggie learns of the affair between the Prince and Charlotte, the Prince is mostly concerned with whether or not Maggie has told her father about the affair yet. Although the Prince's actions are not in the least heroic or princely, his wife continues to describes his actions as being exemplary and worthy of commendation.
Maggie Verver is the daughter of Adam Verver and the wife of the Prince. She is the heroine of the book. The book is about Maggie's awakening and the steps that she takes to save her marriage while at the same time protecting her father from the knowledge that his wife has had an affair. At the beginning of the novel, Maggie is an innocent child who has had to deal with no real troubles in her life. At the end of the novel Maggie stands as a woman, the only woman her husband can see, who has brilliantly come though a possibly life changing crisis.
It might be easy to blame Maggie for her own problems as her close relationship with her father pushes Charlotte and the Prince together. At the beginning of their marriages, Maggie and her son spend more time at her father's home than at their own home. When Maggie becomes aware that there is something strange going on, the only way she knows to make her husband aware of this knowledge is to actually be present at home when he arrives there. Although this may seem a small thing, both Maggie and the Prince recognize its significance. It is through other small moves, such as this one, that Maggie is able to get the idea of her feelings about the on-going affair across to her husband. She neither accuses nor asks for explanations, only lets the Prince know what she knows, then leaves him alone.
Charlotte Stant is the wife of Adam Verver and both the past and present lover of the Prince. Charlotte was friends with Maggie during their school days. It is this friendship that Charlotte uses as a cover to reappear in her friend's life just as she is preparing to marry the Prince. Under the cover of choosing a wedding gift for Maggie, Charlotte devises a plan to spend time with the Prince. It is during this time that the two are overheard by the shopkeeper talking about how they would like to give gifts to one another. When Charlotte marries Adam Verver, she becomes Maggie's stepmother. Near the end of their relationship, as her husband has asked her to go to America with him, Charlotte makes a show of trying to find out if she has done anything to offend her step-daughter. This show ends with her persuading Maggie to give her a kiss as a way to prove there are no hard feelings. In a later discussion between the two ladies, however, Charlotte makes it clear to Maggie that she blames the girl for her current conditions. Although Charlotte is in the wrong for cheating with Maggie's husband, it turns out that Charlotte is angry with Maggie instead of vice versa.
Adam Verver is the father of Maggie and the husband of Charlotte Verver. He is a wealthy American collector who has been living in London gathering up a store of collectibles. It is his desire one day to construct a museum in American City, his and Maggie's hometown, which he will fill with these collectibles. It is his decision to go back to America and start work on the museum that allows Maggie and the Prince the privacy they need to build their relationship. Mr. Verver marries Charlotte merely on the basis of her usefulness to him. He does not really want to marry again but sees that his being unmarried puts Maggie in an uncomfortable position.
Fanny Assingham is a friend of Maggie and Adam Verver as well as Charlotte Stant and the Prince. Fanny is the one who introduces Maggie to the Prince and in this way facilitates their marriage. Fanny also recommends Charlotte to Mr. Verver as an exemplary mate. In addition, it is also to Fanny that the Prince looks for his source of guidance during his marriage. Through the course of the novel, however, Fanny is mainly concerned with protecting her own reputation rather than giving good advice to those whom she has promised to look after. For instance, although Fanny sees the danger of the relationship between Charlotte and the Prince rekindling, she does nothing to discourage or prevent this rekindling. Note also the name that James' chooses for this gossipy, meddling lady. She appears to be nothing but a fanny.
Colonel Robert 'Bob' Assignham
Bob Assingham is a retired Army man who does not understand his wife's need to meddle in other people's business. Although he does not understand her reasons for meddling, Bob spends hours listening to his wife try to work out in her mind how she should handle other people's problems for them. He offers a bit of comic relief as he struggles to understand his wife's viewpoint.
Bloomsbury Street shopkeeper
It is this shopkeeper who offers the golden bowl for sale. He is not given a proper name during the course of the novel. The Prince sees this man, who eavesdrops on his private conversation to Charlotte, as a swindling Jew. Maggie, however, is awed by the man's sense of responsibility. She is glad that he chose to be honest with her about the flaw in the bowl.
Mrs. Rance is one of the many regular visitors to the Fawns. It is Mrs. Rance who arranges to be caught alone with Mr. Verver one Sunday when all of the others are at church. One reason that Mr. Verver marries Charlotte is to discourage women like Mrs. Rance and their advances.
The Principino is the son of Maggie and the Prince. Although he is not a major character in the novel, he is one of the bonds that hold Maggie and her father together. At the conclusion of the novel Mr. Verver tells Maggie that he feels even giving up his relationship with his grandson will be worth the end result of the sacrifice.
Lady Castledean is among those who attend the party at Matcham with Charlotte and the Prince. She uses Charlotte and the Prince as an excuse to stay behind after her husband leaves so she can see Mr. Blint, her love interest. At first Maggie is afraid to invite Lady Castledean to Fawns for fear she will tell Mr. Verver about Charlotte and the Prince's affair. Fanny reminds her, however, that Lady Castledean probably would not tell because she does not want news of her own affair to circulate.
This section contains 1,289 words
(approx. 4 pages at 400 words per page)