Henry James was a prominent American author who went on to make his name in the world. Born on 15 April 1843, his family lived in Albany and then moved to Washington in New York City and finally settled in London. As a boy, his father gave him proper care. Because of his long stay in France with the family, he became well versed in French. He went to Harvard Law School but shown more interest in literature instead of Law.
He is one of the few English authors who has tried transitional approach in his writing. Primarily, he attempted realistic treatment in his writing then he gave the effect of modernism throughout his writings. His notable works are The American, The Portrait of a Lady, The Wings of the Dove and The Ambassadors. He is often noted for the social and marital interplay between American English people and continental Europeans. Although he got nominated for Nobel Prize in literature thrice in the years 1911, 1912 and 1916, could not win the prize.
He, most often, in his later works has shown the extraordinary experiment of a dynamic society in his writings. The critics and readers have given major focus on his experimental approach in his writings. His characters are the product of the very nuances; the nuances of ambiguity, internal states of mind. Henry James has also used his own innovative style in which contradictory, juxtaposed motivations or impressions used in the caricature of his single character ‘psyche. His characters often contrasted with the Old World and New World. The Old world in which social system is much complex and people give more priority to social norms and social hierarchy. It often mirrors the hard reality of the society, where the space for the fancy or untrodden path of imagination is not open. The New World characterises the social pattern of new American Society. In this, people often used to be assertive, expressive and open to the flexible way of life. However, James explored this conflict social norms and personalities, in fiction based on personal relationships where power is exercised very badly. It is frequently noticed that the protagonist was presented American Women facing exploitation and suppression.
However, his literary career extends over a long span of period, during which he has published many trendsetter pieces of works.
The Portrait of a Lady (1880 – 81) is a story of an American woman who inherits a large amount of money but later deserted by two American expatriates. Since its publication, it got wide critical acclaims and it remained one of the voluminous works. The Wings of the Dove (1902), Milly Theale, as the protagonist is suffering from a serious disease, some of the acquaintances befriended with good will motives, while other to the money treacherously. It got very wide public critical acclaim from all sides, although, James himself sometimes was not satisfied with it. The Ambassadors (1903), a dark comedy, explores a trip taken by the Lewis Lambert Strether to Europe in pursuit of Chad Newsome. As its literary significance, New York Edition Proclaimed it as the best of his novels.
Apart from his tremendous fiction writing, James has tried his hand over other fields of writings. He published articles, volumes of criticism, travel, biography, autobiography and plays. His later works are closely related or contrasted with impressionist painting.
by Ravi Kumar, MA