Henry James; female character; 19th century American novel; Daisy Miller; The Portrait of a Lady; The Wings of the Dove; The Golden Bowl
미국소설, v.17, no.2, pp.99 - 119
This paper aims to explore the meaning of female characters in Henry James’s texts in terms of their importance in the context of the 19th century American novel. James, more than any other writers of his time, is attributed to ascending the dimension of American novel in his deep, intense portrait of female characters in his works. In dealing with the issue of women in James, we have to note that almost all the women he depicts are American. James was sympathetic to the claims of American women, the consequence of which is to portray them as an independent being. James’s characters are not just females, but they are American women or girls in that they become an heir of their age; his characters signify the contemporary circumstances of American women as well as their plight as females.
What James did by epitomizing the conflict of American women made him a unique writer in the 19th century literary landscape, largely because before him American fiction is written from a male perspective in which the position of women is ignored. Behind James’s treatment of American women lies his observation of their fate in his time. James believes that American women are distinctive in their fate, especially in comparison with their counterpart in Europe. Devoid of history and culture which might prepare them to learn the many facets of realities, American women are destined to deal with the complexities of life in their own hand, the result of which is to pay for the painful lesson of life in the intricate world of Europe. As James was aware of the perennial dilemma of American women, he could create female characters who stand out as a person of substance and individuality. No matter how many different realities they face, James's characters sustain the ability to confirm their identity as an American woman.