MA (Master of Arts)
Date of Award
Committee Chair or Co-Chairs
Mark A. Holland
Thomas A. Holmes, John D. Morefield
In the world of Henry James's novels, characters are often placed in difficult situations where their happiness depends on their ability to make a free choice. Female characters are manipulated and diminished by a patriarchal system that not only seeks to subordinate their will, but also to objectify them, to place them on the shelf as a trophy. Fathers and husbands are typically the controlling agents, but James also presents women who appropriate the dominating role.
With varying degrees of success, each female character rejects the status of trophy. Instead, each attempts to make choices and determine her own future. James allows for ambiguity and nuanced resolutions. With ambiguity comes hope in the steadfastness of Catherine Sloper in Washington Square, in the tragic heroism of Isabel Archer in The Portrait of a Lady, and even in the sacrificial loss of Verena Tarrant for Olive Chancellor in The Bostonians.
Thesis - Open Access
Huisman, Melissa C., "Trophies or Treasures: The Burden of Choice for Mothers, Wives, and Daughters in Washington Square, The Portrait of a Lady, and The Bostonians." (2007). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. Paper 2074. https://dc.etsu.edu/etd/2074
Copyright by the authors.