Psychological Prose of Henry James and Edith Wharton
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Abstract: The aim of the article is to study the psychological prose of Henry James and Edith Wharton on the example of the novels “The Portrait of a Lady” (1881) and “The House of Mirth” (1905). Henry James in his article “The Art of Fiction” emphasized that “a psychological reason is … an object adorably pictorial”. His American successor, Edith Wharton, also focused her interest on the inner spiritual life of the characters. Exploring of the subtle process of being and the dynamics of human mental states became the objective of both authors. “The House of Mirth” can be considered a creative dialogue with Henry James, since both authors were interested in the problem of individual freedom and the limits of this freedom in bourgeois society. Henry James and Edith Wharton demonstrate the way their protagonists Isabel Archer and Lily Bart acquire a moral sense through misery, comprehending social reality in terms of “it seemed – it turned out”. As distinct from a number of scientific works on the novel “The House of Mirth” which mainly vary the theme of money, its corrupting influence on a person, as well as a the problem of social status of a woman, the article focuses on the image of the evolution of consciousness of both Isabel Archer and Lily Bart, who commit self-discovery and claim their dignity. In contrast to the researchers who believe that Isabel Archer resigned herself to her fate (A. Kettle, V. Tolmachev), and that this dictated her departure to Rome, the author of the article proves that Isabel entered a new period of her life without any fear or hesitation, with “a spice of heroism”. The evolution of Lily Bart’s character is shown both in the light of the tradition of Henry James’s favorite “Point-of-View”, and Tolstoy’s “psychological contradiction”.
Key words: American literature; American writers; American women-writers; literary creative activity; literary genres; literary motives; women’s prose; novels; psychological motives; literary plots; personal freedom; psychological prose; realistic prose; moral experience; the theme of money; literary themes.
Selitrina, T. L. (2021). Psychological Prose of Henry James and Edith Wharton. In Philological Class. 2021. Vol. 26 ⋅ №1. P. 242–252. DOI 10.51762/1FK-2021-26-01-20.