Bachelor of Arts
Mrs. Brook, Mother, Henry James, Characters, Confidence, Woman
The presentation of Mrs. Brook in The Awkward Age is problematic. James seems to have intended to portray her sympathetically. Yet he will not allow the reader to feel sympathy for her. I suggest that James undermines the very sympathy he wants to evoke, because Mrs. Brook would otherwise have too much power. Combined in her are two character types which appear frequently in James's novels, and which I call the confidence woman and the mother usurper. Occasionally, a mother usurper may show some of the confidence woman's traits, or vice versa. But the two types always (with the exception of Mrs. Brook) serve discrete functions and exercise discrete powers. As a result of their combination in her, Mrs. Brook shows the tendency to become a much more significant character than James wants either confidence women or mother usurpers to be. It is necessary, therefore, to undo her in some way, and James undoes her by undermining the sympathy we would otherwise have for her.
Berg, Rebecca L., "Mrs. Brook: Confidence Woman and Mother Usurper" (1983). Honors Papers. 638.