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HENRY JAMES MORAL BEAUTY OF THE AMERICAN GIRL IN "THE WINGS OF THE DOVE"

Title
HENRY JAMES MORAL BEAUTY OF THE AMERICAN GIRL IN "THE WINGS OF THE DOVE"
Authors
이희숙
Issue Date
1960
Department/Major
대학원 영어영문학과
Publisher
이화여자대학교 대학원
Degree
Master
Abstract
Immediately before James began "The Wings of the Dove" he created another international story "The Ambassadors."(1901) Those two novels are the companion pieces. Both novels deal with the international contrast-the contrast between the innocent American and the knowing European. Yet the author's attitude toward Europe is utterly different in the two novels. In "The Ambassadors" he showed superiority of the beautiful order of Paris to the hard moralism of Woolett, Massachusetts. In "The Wings of the Dove" he confered more value on the spiritualism of America than on the empiricism of Europe. In this respect "The Wings of the Dove" is more akin to his earlier international novel, "The Portrait of a Lady." In fact James was conceiving the plan of this novel for much longer time than "The Ambassadors." He stated at the beginning of the preface: "The Wings of the Dove," published in 1902, represents to my memory a very old-if I shouldn't perhaps rather say a very young-motive; I can scarce remember the time when the situation on which this long-drawn fiction mainly rests was not vividly present to me. 1 One of the evident differences from the earlier novel is that James treated his European characters with no less concern than his American heroine, While "The Portrait of a Lady" is purely the story of isabel's experience of Europe, "The Wings of the Dove" is at the same time the story of Milly's experience of Europe and that of Densher's experience of America. what matters in their stories is not their actions but their gradual awakeness, Consequently, although this novel is very shabby in plot, it is very splendid psychologically. There is one more important character, Kate, She is entirely responsible for the action of the novel. We never get inside her. Yet she is a force which promotes the story. Milly's role is spiritual sufferance, Densher's is intellectual response and Kat's is physical action, Those three people together make up this story. Here I will briefly survey the significance of each of the three characters. in the preface James explained that Milly's particular predicament gave him a chance to confer upon his American heroine "a supremely touching value." And this "supremely touching value" was embodied in Milly by her magnanimous attitude toward Densher and Kate. James had early created a fine American hero, Christopher Newman. He is a young, successful comercial man; he is without such things as culture or taste. One of his friends calls him as "the great Western Barbarian, stepping forth in his innocence and might, gazing a while at this poor corrupt old world... Yet in character he is a "nature's nobleman; his fine bearing and noble character surpass every polished, refined nobility. If Milly is James' most sympathetic heroine, Newman is his most sympathetic hero. The important thing here is that James confered upon this "nature's nobleman" moral magnanimity, a broad, generous heart, which never enables him to do such a thing as revenge even if he is compeled to. From the instances of Milly Theal, Christophor Newman and Isabel Archer too, w can draw the following views Janes' conception of "a supremely touching value" is based on the free-hearted, magnanimous, moral deed. If Milly is a symbol of the American society, Kate is also very important as a symbol of the English society. To say in more detail, while Milly represents the civilization where people firmly believe in the supreme power of the spirit, Kate represents the civilization where the sense of necessity in affairs of life governs people's behavior. James deliberately emphasized the sordidness of the circumstances of Kate's life, in order for us to understand her conduct in the light of her circumstances. Indeed her brightness, her courage, her high taste, her sense of honour are all of superior qualities. The reappearance of her miserable father at the end"of the novel greatly contributes to strengthening our conviction that her ugly materialism is caused by her circumstances. Finally Densher makes a judgement upon the two kinds of human moralism, He is a moral spokesman for the author. By means of conversion from the adoration of Kate to the adoration of Milly he approves the latter's spiritualism in preference to the former's materialism. Thus through Densher the American idealism wing higher evaluation than the European' empiricism, After Milly's death he exchanges with Mrs. Stringham secret letters about Milly's memory and this provides for his decent mind "a small emergent rock in the waste of waters, the bottomless grey expanse of straightness." Milly's spiritual' beauty stands above and beyond the well-oiled social machine in which he has once particiated. As we have seen through Kate or Mrs. Lowder, Jamesian evil is conceived in an extremely subtle view. In order to understand it. we need to apply a very sensitive eyes. One thing apparent here is that in his international novels we usually find innocence on the American side and knowledge on the European, although those two sorts of quality transcend international contrast. And with a few exceptions he generally attributed a positive value to innocence while knowledge represented corruption, in order to understand this attitude of the author more fully we must go back to his family affair. In England in l844, his father, a philosopher, was attacked by insane hallucination When he was sitting alone"after dinner he was suddenly obsessed by a delusion of something crouching in the room. A horror filled him up for□ an hour. More than twenty years later his elder brother William, the philosopher, had the same experience of hallucination. For some years he suffered the obsession of horror and, losing self-confidence and the desire to live, he attempted many times to commit suicide. Consequently for James family evil is linked some how with knowledge, corruption of innocence. In connection with this unfortunate family affair we can recall once more that "a supremely touching value" which James confered upon our beautiful heroine chiefly consists of innocence and the eager response to life as well as a broad, generous love for her deceitful lover, Milly's innocence is so pure that it keeps her very far from any knowledge of evil. On the other hand it provides a moral light house for Densher who is floating on the dark, harsh stream of the amoral London society.
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