Bachelor of Arts
The Portrait of a Lady, The Ambassadors, Henry James, Character, Lambert Strether
Henry James' novels The Portrait of a Lady (1881) and The Ambassadors (1903) are highly psychological; they address the complexities of the human mind, from motives and morals to flaws and potentials. The author is far more concerned with the way his characters' minds respond to events than with the events themselves. If we enjoy reading James it is largely because of the fascinating tensions he creates which give rise to these responses. Whether these tensions arise between characters or between an individual and his or her external circumstances, James sounds the depths of his characters' responses, demanding through the text a close scrutiny of our sense of human interaction and free will. James poignantly confronts the question of social freedom in both works, depicting Isabel Archer "in the process of forming herself" in The Portrait, and Lambert Strether struggling to reconcile a past identity with the truths of self discovery in The Ambassadors.
Davis, James C., "In Pursuit of "Our Heroine's Biographer": A Study of Narrative Method in Henry James' The Portrait of a Lady & The Ambassadors" (1990). Honors Papers. 577.