Degree Name

MA (Master of Arts)



Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Mark A. Holland

Committee Members

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.

Document Type

Thesis - unrestricted


Copyright by the authors.