By Elizabeth Allen
A whole size examine 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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Extra resources for A Woman’s Place in the Novels of Henry James
The speaker does not infer this meaning from any specific connection or correlation with experience, but 'senses' it. The instinctive level of this recognition of symbolism and significance is intensified in the next paragraph, when he places the letter on his breast and experiences 'a sensation not altogether physical, yet almost so, as of burning heat; as if the letter were not of red cloth, but red-hot iron'. 2 The power of the letter, a power not accessible to analysis or logic, is firmly established.
37 Yet, as I suggested, the specifically American role of girls and women (given their cultural prominence in the United States) needed even more to be balanced by their allegiance to their class, to their being flawed products of the prototype of the True Woman. De Tocqueville could see that the apparent freedom of American girls did not imply a radical change of role in society, merely a shift in responsibility and tactic: Far from hiding the corruptions of the world from her, they prefer that she should see them at once and train herself to shun them.
57 Similarly Milton Rugoff, in Prudery and Passion: Sexuality in Victorian America, concludes in his chapter on literature: We come away from such a survey of nineteenth century literature, and especially fiction, with a disturbing sense of the reluctance of the young heroes of novels to cope maturely with young women. 58 Of course English fiction also contains its virtuous 'too good for this world' heroines-one has only to look at Dickens. But if the solution in fulfilling marriage is less common in American fiction, it may have to do, as Fiedler and others suggest, with the orientation of the male American psyche towards flight, escape from social responsibility, and childhood, in which woman signifies all that is being escaped from.
A Woman’s Place in the Novels of Henry James by Elizabeth Allen