Henry James Writing Styles in The Golden Bowl

This Study Guide consists of approximately 42 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Golden Bowl.
This section contains 832 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)

Point of View

This novel is written in the third person point of view. The narrator knows minute details of each character's thought processes and decisions as they work their way through the problems and situations in which they find themselves. Therefore, the narrator is not only omniscient but also reliable in his statements. This reliable and all knowing view point is important since so much of the novel surrounds the thoughts and emotions of the characters. Occasionally, the narrator will deviate from his third person role and write directly to his audience. For instance, in some places he will refer to a character as "our friend" or insert an opinion where he refers to himself in the first person.

This story is told mainly through exposition with the author including much detail about each character's own personal thoughts and motivations. There is limited dialogue where characters actually speak to one another and this dialogue generally is a way for one character to tell another what they are thinking or feeling. Probably less than twenty-five percent of the novel is dialogue while the remainder is made of long descriptions of the characters thoughts.


This novel is set in London, England. The action occurs in several different sets in London, including the shop on Bloomsbury Street and Cadogan Place, the home of Fanny and Bob Assingham. Portland Place is the home of Charlotte and Adam Verver, while Eaton Square is where Maggie and the Prince live. It is assumed the two houses are close to each other as the two couples visit each other frequently. Fawns is the country home belonging to Adam Verver. The two couples, along with Bob and Fanny Assingham, retreat to Fawns during the summer. Another important setting in this movie is Brighton. It is during a trip to Brighton that Mr. Verver proposes to Charlotte.

Places that are mentioned in the book but are not actually included in the action include American City. This city, located in America, is Maggie and Adam's hometown. It is this town to which Mr. Verver and Charlotte relocate at the end of the novel. It is here that Mr. Verver hopes to build his museum where his art collection will be displayed. Another location mentioned in the book, but not actually included, is the city of Rome. Rome is where the Prince proposed to Maggie.

Language and Meaning

James tends to write in long, complex sentences in which it is easy for the reader to get lost. In addition, these long complex sentences deal with the complexity of the human mind and its changing opinions and emotions. It is as if James tries to capture the internal workings of the mind as it works through the emotions and drawbacks of the situations in which it finds itself and put these workings down on paper. Although there are instances where the reader knows that a great deal of time has passed between one incident and another, it is almost impossible to determine when actually things are happening as there is little or no reference to time. It is only known at the end of the novel that about four years have passed since the marriage of Maggie and the Prince. However, James did not intend for his novel to focus on when something happened; he instead wanted to focus to be on the characters' responses to what was happening around them.

With James' emphasis on characters' emotions, it can sometimes be difficult to determine to whom or to what a certain passage is referring. This is especially true when other characters are simply referred to as he or she. There are also few or no personal touches that allow the reader to distinguish one character's thoughts from another. All of the descriptive passages are presented in the same type of language with no inflections or differentiations.


This novel is divided into two almost equal volumes. The first volume is entitled "The Prince" while the second is entitled "The Princess." Within these volumes, the novel is divided into books with the first volume containing four books while the second volume contains three books. Generally each of these books ends with some major breakthrough in the action of the novel. For instance, Book First ends with the conclusion of Charlotte and the Prince's shopping trip. Another example of this includes Book Fourth, which concludes with Maggie's discussion with the Prince over the broken golden bowl.

The main and only plot of the novel is the story of the two couples' marriages. Since James delves very closely into each character's feelings and emotions, the pace of the novel is very slow. There are also sections in the book where the reader is carried back in time by James in order to fill them in on details about one character or another's life experiences. Although they are sometimes time consuming, these flashbacks are well placed and flow nicely with the rest of the book.

This section contains 832 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
The Golden Bowl from BookRags. (c)2017 BookRags, Inc. All rights reserved.
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