Bostonians by Henry James Essay - Essay Prowess

Bostonians by Henry James Essay


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The Bostonians by Henry James


The Bostonians was published as a series in the century magazines back in 1885 then as volume in 1886. The novel narrates how James had re-visited America in the middle of the decade after his parent passed on.  The novel is set in both Ney York and Boston and it reflects some of James contemporary impressions towards the nation. The novel as a matter of fact talks of some reflections on the Civil War but the main subject matter is ‘The Woman Question.’ That is; the difference between traditional views over the role of women in society, and the views of suffragists. The novel also focuses on the two to supporter the women’s liberation (James141).

Chapter 21

In this work of the author, it is staged in the New York where Basil Ransom lives and in the upper reach of the town. The passage reflects on more issues that Henry James denies and pauses to reveal towards the thoughts of Henry James to show how Basil practice feminism.

In our case, the passage is developed by mentioning of various thoughts of Henry James towards the actions taken by Basil Ransom. Henry James views the Basil Ransom’s political and social actions towards the society as blatantly conservative and this force James not to conceal them to the society. In his argument, James reveals that Ransom believes that men are superior to women. Ransom Basil also claims that men tend to be tiresome when they declined to accept the lot which men had made for them” (James 151). Although there are many individuals who are seen to criticize Basil Ransom, James continues to poke fun at Ransom for what he is writing on the various articles. Through the response of a periodical editor, James clearly amuses himself at the expense of Basil’s backward views: “This gentleman pointed out that his doctrines were about three hundred years behind the age; doubtless some magazine of the sixteenth century would have been very happy to print them” (James148) Habegger argue on Basil’s behavior that; Basil inherited conservative views from the previous generation. In addition, James says that it is hard to believe that Basil would more energetically support ideas that he himself depicts as so outlandishly reactionary.

Habegger and Lansdown think that the novel supports Basil’s views,  but this is also difficult to  accept when James regularly reminds us that Ransom’s views are narrow, “ill-starred,” and “reactionary” (James 149). Generally, James seems to condemn and disagree to Basil’s public life completely. Henry James mentions that Ransom is almost completely incompetent as a lawyer and businessman. James also claims that Basil is making a mess of the few jobs he has and foolishly choosing a corrupt business partner (James 147). Finally, James sums up his feelings on Basil Ransom’s public presence in its entirety: “It came home to him that his opinions were stiff, whereas in comparison his effort was lax”.  In addition to this fact, James goes on apologizing to the women in the society on Basil’s behalf and almost asks the reader to forgive him: “I . . . have sketched a state of mind which will doubtless strike many readers as painfully crude” (James 151). It hardly seems likely that James himself completely sided with views that he continuously berated and apologized for.

Although James tries to defend his argument, he does not solve the problem of sexual alienation and the shakeup of traditional roles to define; what are men, what are women, and the way they should interact with each other. Therefore, although the readers get important hints for better ways in the novel, there readers are not presented with solutions or even suggestions towards the issues stated. Among those who have sensitive issues, they may sometimes lack resolution from the novel and thus find the novel to be frustrating. This may be the case with conservatives as much as liberals, although a certain element of the latter group is bound to be riled by the calm assurance that feminism is not always the solution (James 151). We can perhaps suspect from the novel that the solution may be forthcoming by an inquiry into human nature that is more honest and less tied  by societal, traditions or even political rabble-rousing, but James only allows this to remain a suspicion.

Main Theme

The Bostonians mainly deals or focuses explicitly on the political themes, the role of the women in the society and more so the issue of feminism. James was at best ambivalent on the issue of feminist movement and this can be supported by the previous chapters through the harshly satirize Olive and her fellow ideologues. Additional theme in this novel is on the issue of lesbianism as indicated by Olive’s possible lesbian attraction to Verena. Although this must have happened, James was not explicit there due to the conventions of the time (James 151). The form of vagueness may actually enrich the novel as it develops possible ambiguity about Olive’s motives.

Work Cited

James, Henry. The Bostonians. Great Britain, Penguin Publishing, 2000 print.