Degree Year

1975

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

English

Advisor(s)

Andrew Hooper

Keywords

Lambert Strether, Henry James

Abstract

The moral development of Strether in The Ambassadors is, as James says in the Preface, "a process of vision." From beginning to end, it is not what happens in the novel but how Strether sees it that provides James with a vehicle for the "development of extremes" which show the pitfalls of the moral and the aesthetic senses. Strether's "process of vision" restricts the point of view in the novel to his consciousness, and his return to America at the close of the book resolves the series of perceptions. James, while denying the possibility of moral action between people, creates an isolated character who, in realizing his own self-sufficiency, demonstrates that pure morality exists. James points to moral absolutes in the late novels, moral absolutes that are held within one individual's consciousness and imagination. In The Ambassadors this is largely achieved through a strict form counterbalanced by continual use of antithetical elements. The novel, a technical tour de force, is the most unremitting and pure expression of James's major thematic paradox: life as celebration and as tragedy of consciousness.

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