1 PATTERNS OF IMAGERY IN HENRY JAMES' THE AMBASSADORS APPROVED: Majobr Professor Minor Professor Director of the Department of English /vff ~7 Dean of the Graduate School V
2 PATTERNS OF IMAGERY IK HENRY JAKES' THE AMBASSADORS THESIS Presented to the Graduate Council of the North Texas State University in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements For the Degree of MASTER OF ARTS By Bobbye.Nelson Wood, B. S, Denton, Texas August, 1968
3 TABLE OF CONTENTS Chapter Page I. INTRODUCTION II. ART IMAGERY 38 III. DOMESTIC IMAGERY 38 IV. NATURE IMAGERY 53 V. RELIGIOUS AND MONETARY IMAGERY. 70 VI. CONCLUSION. 8? BIBLIOGRAPHY 91 iii
4 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Imagery...is the central core of language. In it the sensuous, the emotional, and the intellectual merge, and the vision of life is whole. It seems reasonable to suppose, therefore, that a writer's genius will appear most clearly in the figurative images that he creates to convey his meaning, that a study of a writer's imagery will reveal-his basic intuitions concerning reality. In The Ambassadors imagery is just as surely the reader's "friend" as the ficelle, a stylistic device which James employs for the express purpose of enlightening the reader without departing from a single point of view. Serving to expand the narrative,-like the ficelle, imagery is an "enrolled, a direct, aid to lucidity" 2 ; however, as the "means by which experience in all its richness and emotional complexity is communicated,"^ James' carefully selected imagery surpasses the ficelle in providing explanation, interpretation, and intensification of theme, character, and "story." 1 Florence Marsh, "Image and Idea," Wordsworth's (New Haven, 1952), p. 19. o Henry James, "Preface to The Ambassadors," The Art of the Novel, Critical Prefaces (New YorkT*193^)T p.~~y22~. r 5 William Flint Thra11, Add1son Hibbard, and C. Hugh Holman, A Handbook to Literature (New-York, 1936), p. 212,
5 Appealing both to the senses and the conscious intelligence, imagery is the logical yet artistic means to successful communication with the whole man. In The Ambassadors imagery has a variety of uses: it defines, underscores, and functions contrapuntally with theme; it creates atmosphere or tone; it dramatizes or illumines dialogue; it reflects character by revealing psychological nuances of personality or degree of relationship. Its major function, however, is to extend and intensify the narrative development, becoming, for the reader, the story of the "story.". The "story" itself is the demonstration of Lambert Strether's evolving consciousness, his "process of vision"^ about the meaning of life. As a conscientious and sympathetic friend of the Newsome family of Woollett, Massachusetts, Strether goes to Paris as an ambassador of morality, Americanism, and filial affection to save the only son, Chadwick Newsome, from a life that is assumed to be both immoral and unremunerative. On his presenting the claims of the practical with firmness and serenity, Strether is naively confident that Chad will immediately see the speciousness of the attractions of an alien civi1ization and long for the earnest enterprises of a New England manufacturing town. It is not a reprobate Chad whom Strether encounters in Paris, however, but an admirably poised young man, seemingly "already in possession of 4 Henry James, "Preface," p. 308.
6 more values than Woollett at its best could ever give him."* 5 And "besides finding Chad unexpectedly improved, Strether discovers the supposedly "unscrupulous hussy" who has been detaining him to be a woman of exquisite grace and breeding-- the Countess, Madame Marie de Vionnet. It is she, Strether learns, who is directly responsible for the marvelous changes in Chad; it is she, therefore, to whom he is indebted. To complicate matters still further, Strether belatedly discovers in himself an aptitude for appreciating a culture devoted to aesthetic enjoyment and for exulting in a life that is free, purposeful, and well-rounded. For him, however, the delights of the Old World and the beauties of Paris are focused in Marie de Vionnet, who "stands for most of the things that 6 make the charm of civilization." It is Strether's glowing reports about her, in fact, cabled to Mrs. Newsome across the Atlantic, that bring out Woollett's second and more coercive ambassador--sarah Newsome Pocock, with her entourage of Jim, her fat, facetious husband, and Mamie, her sister-in-law, who, as a "pretty, wholesome, marriageable product of Chad's native 7 land," is intended to turn Chad from his degenerate ways. After much careful consideration, Strether reaches the important conclusion that Chad has chosen the better part of e; "'Martin Sampson, "Introduction," The Ambassadors (New York, 1930), p. ix. " 6 Henry James, "Project of Novel," The Notebooks of Henry James, edited by F.O. Matthiessen (New York", "195"?"), ~p~. 39B." 7 'Martin Sampson, "Introduction," p. x.
7 k life and should not, therefore, go home. What, after all, he reasons-, are the commercial claims of Woollett when compared with the light, warmth, and culture of Paris? However, beyond his rationale that Woollett should be proud of its native son's improvement and trusting of its ambassador's understanding of the total, situation, Strether has psychological reasons for loyalty to the young man. Vicariously, Strether is enjoying the youth he feels that he missed, as well as participating in the glamor of a life of refinement and culture. In addition, Strether sees in Chad the lost son whom he earlier had sacrificed out of lack of imagination and understanding, and helping Chad relieves Strether of the subconscious guilt which has haunted him for years. Most importantly, however, Strether sees that Paris is "good" for Chad and feels ethically bound to secure for the young man the life that has made such striking improvements in him. Communicating his decision to Sarah, who ignores the charm of Paris and sees evil abounding, Strether offers up his economic future as the husband of the wealthy and powerful Mrs. Newsome and his professional future as the editor of the Newsome-subsidized Review. Branding Strether disloyal, juvenile, and obstinate, Sarah leaves for the Alps, narrowly and mercilessly right in her judgment of Chad's "entanglement" and Strether's naivete''. Strether also "sees" at last (both literally and figuratively) the nature of Chad and Marie's relationship, but it is an anticlimax and comes too late to make him regret his decision. Now he knows knows himself, knows what is important in
8 life, knows the moral value of experience for civilization-- and this is precisely the value of the whole episode. Now he understands that relationships should be placed pragmatically above inflexible and judgmental systems of conduct, that charity is not incompatible with honor, and that living is inseparably linked with "awareness." Inspired by Paris, Strether echoes the conclusion of a predecessor in a short story of James': "The great thing is to live, you know, to feel, to be conscious of one's possibilities; not to pass through life mechanically or insensibly, like a letter through a post office." 8 Strether's last duty in Paris is to plead with the wavering Chad not to desert bhe woman who has made him what he is. It is clear to the reader, however, that, having successfully completed his "fling" in Paris, Chad will leave her and go home to manage the business. Ironically, Chad will abjure the beautiful life which Strether has sacrificed to secure for him. In one way ending the "story" and in another suggesting hope for a new and better life, a still responsible but enlightened Strether goes back to Massachusetts, thus accepting the reality of the penalties incurred by courageously making an unprecedented and self-actualizing decision. "Strether" is the first and last word In the novel; he is Q also the "solidly posed centre" around which all the action 5 8 Henry James, "A Bundle of Letters," Lady Barbarina and Other Tales (London, 1922), p. kko. ~ Eenry James, The Art of the Novel, p. xxiii.
9 6 revolves and through which the attitudes and relations of the other characters are revealed. The reader, however, is not left with only narrative detail which appeals to his mental processes and thus guides him to a comprehension of Strether's "vision"; as a carefully developed stylistic device, imagery provides the implications, the suggested overtones, and the nuances of perception Which enable him, by making associations of his own, not only to follow but also to participate in Strether's developing consciousness. Believing that "each human consciousness carries its own 'reality,' and that this is what is captured and preserved in art," James successfully uses imagery to link reader, fictional character, theme, and "story." In The Ambassadors, imagery is so organically related to both structure and theme that it 11 becomes their "mode of apprehension" 10 ; through imagery, James not only releases himself from the necessity of burdening his "story" with reams of narrative details in order to establish what Strether "sees" but also provides the reader with a means of identifying and' evaluating his own perceptions of meaning. James expected the reader, in fact, to be vigilant and attentive and to rely on his own imagination as the organizer and intensifier of action once wryly answering a let.ter from his puzzled friend Hugh Walpole: "How can you say I do anything so foul and abject as to 'state'? You deserve that I should 10 Leon Edel, The Conquest of London (Philadelphia, 1953), p W.C. Clemen, The Development of Shakespeare's Imagery (Cambridge, 1951 )> P» 98. * "
10 condemn you to read the book over once again!" 12 7 Though it often has been pointed out that there are recurrent patterns or clusters of images in James 1 writing, the most common approach to a study of them has been similar to Caroline Spurgeon's method of examining Shakespeare's images: tabulating and classifying carefully, then making corresponding biographical assumptions. Focusing on the single image while ignoring its context and larger meaning is limiting for several reasons: first, it forces the image to assume a decorative rather than a narrative function; second, it distorts the a\ithor's intent; and third, it blunts the force of the iraage by restricting its illumination of a particular idea or theme. Patterns of images are most important when they relate structurally to the piece of literature itself, a point well illustrated by Robert Heilman in This Great Stage, about imagery in King Lear. After citing certain recurrent patterns of images, he demonstrates how such images operate as a symbolic body to re-inforce a central theme of the play. The value of Heilman's approach lies in its demonstration that the images have symbolic import and relate structurally and thematically to the play as a whole.this is true also of James' imagery, for while one may draw some 12 Henry James, "Letter to Hugh Walpole," August 14, 1912, The Letters o Henry James, edited by Percy Lubbock (New York, 1920), p. 2V5. 13 Robert Heilman, This Great Stage (Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 1948)-, p. 18.
11 8 indirect parallels between his choice of certain types of imagery and the preferences in his life, it is much more important to establish the direct relationship of the categories of imagery to Strether's "story" or "vision," Though James uses art imagery as a part of his highly specialized technique, for example, that fact does not indicate necessarily that James himself was an artist or even a connoisseur of art. Rather, its significance lies in its function, which is (1) to frame for the reader certain highly concentrated and important details of Strether's "vision," thereby enabling him to "see" exactly what Strether sees, and (2) to interpret Strether's conscious reactions and subconscious intuitions in order to attain insights into motivation. Through carefully selected and focused "pictures" figuratively hung in the gallery of Strether's mind, James suggests reasons" for relationships, establishes psychological motivation, illustrates character, reveals cultural differences between Woollett and Paris which act as polar influences on Strether, explores Strether's past and reveals what is significant in his present, and creates an expressive means of uniting structure and "story," technique and narrative. As a highly civilized man--urbane,- witty, cultured, sophisticated, cosmopolitan--as well as an artist, James uses domestic imagery to reflect personality and degree of civilization, to probe the moral values and traditions of society, and to reveal Strether's changing views of what is important in civilization. James uses food imagery, for example, to reflect Strether's
12 9 shift from New England moral absolutism to European pragmatism, by dramatizing how "tasting" becomes the empirical test of the good life of Paris, Through'domestic imagery James also illustrates Strether's deepening belief that the contemplative life is equally as valuable to society as the active and that for true maturity innocence must not avoid a confrontation with reality. Water imagery makes up another pattern which James uses to illustrate one of the important facets of Strether's developing consciousness: relationships are more important than systematic and static ethical standards. Mrs. Newsome and her daughter Sarah, Strether gradually "sees," are icebergs or glittering icicles, images which reveal their chilly natures, as well as their static,inflexible viewpoints; an ideal relationship, on the other hand, is a warm, pleasant, free-flowing stream, which floats congenial friends to their destinations and never willfully obstructs progress. Chad's charm is a mysterious, uncharted sea; complex relationships are floods and whirlpools; new ideas are wells and fountains pouring from pure but unexplainable sources; surrendering quickly to the beauty of Paris is to be "washed up on a sunny.,.strand by the waves of a single day." Imagery of boat:;; and ships stands for safety from the uncertainty of moving >:ater, suggests complicity by giving symbolic import to the function of crew, and makes dramatic parallels between lit 'Henry James, The Ambassadors, Morton Critical Edition, edited by S.P. Rosenbaum (Mew York, 196^), p. 60, All furthei references r,i11 be to this edition.
13 10 literal and emotional shipwreck. To aid the reader iri understanding his characters and their environments, James uses bird and animal imagery; Woollett, for example, is a sheep, whose innocent lambs stand in awe and fear of Europe, the "monster,the "serpent." 1^ Miss Gostrey's orderly home is a "nest," 1^ reflecting her character and suggesting her intentions toward Strether; Mrs. Newsome and Sarah are caged animals who are "quietest at feeding time" 1? Gloriani is the "glossy male tiger" 1^ who, to OA the accompaniment of "little cries and protests," stalks through his jungle-garden the beautifully-plumed creatures who are his prey. Though the narrative development stays firmly on the level of intellectual and moral analysis, imagery suggests certain subconscious personality traits which intensify the reader's perceptions. Adding a subterranean level of drama, this imagery becomes in itself a story. James uses flower imagery to describe character, focusing in particular on the two young women representative of their differing cultures, Jeanne de Vionnet and Mamie Pocock. In addition, flowers symbolize Waymarsh's complicity with Miss Barrace and Sarah Pocock, delicately suggesting why he is again in blooming health. To symbolize.her triumph over Paris' claims on Waymarsh, Sarah pins a huge rose on his lapel, a rose so incongruous,with Waymarsh's former gloomy nature that it becomes an immediate clue to his change, as well as the focal point for Strether's contemplation of the. P. 38. l6 lbid., p Ibid., p. 79. P P Ibid., p. 124.
14 11 ambiguities and paradoxes of his own Parisian'experience. For Strether, the rose expresses role-reversals--strether and Chad, like sand in an hourglass, change places in their perceptions of value in life. It points out the problem of appearance versus reality--strether comes to Paris expecting to find Chad "patched" 21 but recognizable, he mistakes reconstruction for regeneration, and at the end of his experience he learns to his dismay that Chad is indeed only "patched." The rose reveals, through its intrinsic attributes, the beauty but brevity of life and the need, therefore, to make the most of it at every opportunity. Through imagery of money and religion, James examines 22 "the inadequacy of the famous New England conscience," ~ using it as another figurative facet of the "story" of Strether's growth from innocence to maturity. Money imagery, for example, illustrates Strether's changing value system, while adding overtones of Woollett, where Time is Money and even personal allegiances are commodities. That Strether fully understands the terms of his mission to Paris is revealed in the cryptic summation: "No song, no supper" 2 -^; that he is carefully computing his "costs" and keeping strict accounts is revealed by monetary images so numerous as to be second only to water 21 Ibid., p Austin Warren, "The New England Conscience, Henry James and Ambassador Strether," The Minnesota Review, II (Winter, 1962), ^Henry James, "Project of Novel," p. 386.
15 12 images. Strether assesses people, measures relationships, and appraises emotional debts all with a pecuniary vocabulary which characterizes both Strether and his native region. Rescuing Chad, for example, is his "business" in Paris; repaying Madame de Vionnet for "expenses incurred in [chad'sj reconstruction"" is only fair; relaxing in the beauty of springtime is "finding in his pocket more money than usual" 25 ;aligning himself with Chad, Paris, and Madame de Vionnet is as frustrating "as if he had sold himself but hadn't somehow got the cash" ; the whole episode is "a hand- 27 ful of goldpieces for imagination and memory." Not only the commercial but also the Calvinistic "inadequacies" of Woollett's conscience are explored through imagery; the central theme of the story, in fact, is contained in a long speech by Strether'explaining his reactions against a theology that stresses the duties rather than the joys of living. Prepared to pass judgment on a relationship labeled evil because of appearances, he comes to Paris in the security <p Q of his "prescribed moral frame."" The confusion of Strether's simple moral standards of good and evil is revealed by a switch from Bible-centered imagery to general religious imagery. Maria Gostrey, for example, is the Sybil who guides Strether 24 Henry James, The Ambassadors, p lbid., p Ibid., p. 206.?? ""'Henry James, "Project of Novel," p S Robert A. Durr, "The Night Journey in The Ambassadors," Philogical Quarterly, XXXVI (January, 1956), p~. 32."
16 13 2Q around Europe; Marie de 7ior.net Is a "goddess" " of a strange, 30 new world; Chad is a "happy young Pagan"^ around whom Strether- 31 hears a "hornpipeplay; Strether feels that he has been "sacrificing to strange gods," that his hands are stained with "the blood of monstrous alien altars."-^' He thinks of his commitment to "save" Madame de Vionnet, however, in the terms of crucifixion in the Christian tradition: he is the voluntary "lamb" suffering to preserve what he judges to be an ideal relationship; Madame de Vionnet's gentle reminder of 33 Chad's debt is a "golden n ailfixing him to the terms.of his ^4 sacrifice; he associates the "wine-colored,,.gleam"-' in her black dress with the love and sacrifice commemorated in the Communion service. Invited by the plenitude of James'- image-making power, as well as James' own commendation of this novel as "quite the 39 best, 'all round,' of-all my productions', critics have made varied studies of imagery in The Ambassadors. Some concentrate irrelevantly on drawing biographical parallels with the imagery, such as Robert L. Gale, who, in his book The Caught Image, asserts that James uses a great deal of water Imagery merely because he traveled often across the Atlantic Ocean. Others, such as Alexander Holder-Barell. in The Development _of 99. Henry James, The Ambassadors, p. loo. 3 Ibid., p ' 31 Ibid,, p ^Ibid. > p ~^Ibid., p ^Ibid., p. 1?3. "^Henry James, "Preface," p. JQ8.
17 Imagery and Its Functional Sign!f1cance in Henry James's Novels, demonstrate th'e kinds of imagery which James uses. Holder-Barell insists that imagery is not structurally related to the-novel and merely functions like the bassus continuus in a musical composition, "It does not constitute the melody," he says; it provides a "kind of background or o / accompaniment," Other critics like Leon Edel in his threevolume biography of James, for which he won a Pulitzer Prize in an( i Oscar Cargill in The Novels of Henry James show the interrelation of the imagery in all the novels and short stories. Still others, following the direction of New Criticism, discuss Imagery as a stylistic device which integrates description with action or characterization: Viola Hopkins in "Visual Art Devices and Parallels in the Fiction of Henry OO og James,F.O. Matthiessen in "The Ambassadors,"^ Austin Warren in "Symbolic Imagery in the Later Novels,"-^ J.A. Ward in "Picture and Action: The Problem of Narration in James' ij-0 Fiction," and William Bysshe Stein, who, in "The Ambassadors1 'Alexander Holder-Barell, The Development of Imagery arid its Functional Significance in Henry James's Novels (Bern, Switzerland, 1959T7 _ p.. 17 i " ~ LXXVI (December, 1961), ^. og -~ The Question of Henry James, edited by F.W, Dupee (New York, 19^5)» PP. l7-^2~9: ~ 39 Discussions of.henry James, edited by Naomi Lebowitz (Boston, 1962), pp ^0 Rice University Studies, LI (Winter, 1965),
18 The Crucifixion of Sensibility," states that an image in The Ambassadors has the same value as an image in poetry--"it generates form and meaning." M Priscilla Gibson, in "The Uses of James' Imagery: Drama Through Metaphor," suggests that it is the variety of uses to which James puts his imagery that makes the most profitable k2 study. Naomi Lebowitz in The Imagination of Loving demon- smo strates how water images reveal the "moral" of the novel A3 Robert A. Durr, in "The Night Journey in The Ambassadors," does the same with religious images, suggesting that Strether's Parisian experience parallels any spiritual transformation arrived at through suffering. Durr emphasizes the importance of Strether's agony and the new life for which it prepares him 15 by quoting a passage from the Koran: "Do you think that you shall enter the Garden of Bliss without such trials as came to those who passed away before you?" Perhaps William M. Gibson, in "Metaphor in the Plot of The Ambassadors," comes closest to a demonstration of how imagery unites structure and story when he shows how James employs "metaphorical devices" to two major ends, both- of them connected with plot: "to dramatize and make vivid key 41 William Bysshe Stein, "The Ambassadors: The Crucifixion of Sensibility," College English, XV ("February, 1956), 290. a "PMLA, I.XIX (Winter, 195*0. 10?6-84. h~>, "Naomi Lebowitz, The Imagination of Lovinst (Detroit, 1965). " ' UU Rooert A. Durr, "The Night Journey in The Ambassadors," Philologjcal Quarterly, XXXv (January, 1956), 29~» ~~
19 qtages in the developing action arid to make increasingly 16 explicit the moral significance of Strether's experience to himself and to the reader." 45 Gibson, however, never suggests that imagery is the reader's guide to a full understanding of the experience itself, nor does he attempt to show how images fall naturally into categories which relate structurally and thematically to the novel as a whole. In fact, though some critics point out that clusters of images do exist, not one book or article deals with patterns of imagery, in spite of James' statement in his "Project of Novel" that 3n the final draft each image would be (1) of specific importance and (2.)..in its order and proper light....in its place and 46 of its kind." The general importance of imagery in The Ambassadors is unanimously'acceptedj some critics even state that its function is so basic as to equal its importance in metaphysical '47 poetry. What is now needed is a study of how isolated images cohere in patterns to form 'larger meanings meanings which relate and enhance theme and narrative and which are the reader's dependable and trustworthy guides to a personal O apprehension of Strether's "process of vision." Art 45 "William M. Gibson, "Metaphor in'the Plot of The Ambassadors, " New England Quarterly, XXIV (September, 19 <51)" " ' 46 Henry James, "Project of Novel," pp , 47 Austin Warren, "Symbolic Imagery in the Later Novels, Henry < edited by Leon Edel (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 19&3), p Henry James, "Preface," p
20 1? imagery, for example, forms a recognizable pattern v-'hich James uses as a technique to frarae and interpret the climactic details of Strether's "vision," enabling the reader to "see" exactly what is important to Strether and why. Domestic imagery falls clearly into a pattern which James uses to probe the moral values and manners of New England and Paris; water imagery forms a pattern which illustrates Strether's progression from believing in static systems of conduct to a belief in the importance of relationship--a progression which many critics affirm as the central theme of the novel, Nature images cohere in a pattern which extends and intensifies character, thereby becoming the story of the "story." Monetary and religious images make up a pattern which illustrates Strether's changing value system and reveals both the nature and the significance of his Parisian experience. Working together as the reader's means of understanding and participating in one imaginative man's psychological apprehension of identity, clusters of images give dramatic intensity, reinforce central themes, unite form and narrative and thus create a contrapuntal melody, and, by foreshadowing, illustrating, and providing psychological reasons for events, serve as the story of the "story,"
21 CHAPTER II AST IMAGERY Life Itself the- subject of art was likely to be a waste, with its situations leading to endless bewilderment; while art, the imaginative representation of life, selected, formed, made lucid and intelligent, and gave value and meaning to the contrasts and oppositions and processions of the society that confronted the artist.1 With the publication of The Ambassadors in 1903» James made his principal contribution to the technique of the novel, perfecting with imagery a device which unites structure and 2 story by both "framing and interpreting experience." "framing" certain significant details of Strether's "vision," he enables the reader to "see" what Strether sees; these carefully focused and lighted "pictures" might be said to "articulate the hero's discoveries about his initiation into a new 3 By world of values. Eesides "framing" climactic insights, imagery also reveals Strether's conscious and subconscious responses and provides psychological reasons for the developing action. 1 Richard P. Blaclenur, "The Critical Prefaces," Hound and Horn, VII (Spring, 193^), b?6. ~~ " 2 F.O, Ma'cthlessen, "Trie Ambassadors,''The Question, of Henry James, edited by F.W. Dupee (New~~York7~1^577 "ptt2~i. "Ibid., p
22 19 For example, James first "frames" Wa.yma.rsh for the reader by focusing on the picture of him which Strether sees in his mind on the evening of the docking of the boat; then he uses imagery, which reveals hidden but perceptible truths beyond the range of logic, to interpret Strether's intuitions, establishing.(1) why Strether admires Waymarsh, (2) why Strether does not want him to be the first "note" of Europe, and (3) why Waymarsh is also in Europe. Imagery is thus both structure and story, both form and narrative, becoming the reader's means of apprehending and thus participating -in not only Strether's "vision" but also his figurative "transcendent passage to the world behind appearance and beyond the senses." The most, impressive feature of the "framed" picture of Waymarsh is.his head, which recalls "the impressive image, familiar by engravings and busts, of some great national worthy of the earlier part of the mid-century...of the American statesman...of an elder day."-' It is not only Strether who receives such an impression of massive dignity and moral distinction; later, Miss Barrace, after her first meeting with Waymarsh, refers to him as...the grand old American what shall one call it? The Hebrew prophet, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, who used when I was a little girl in the Rue Montaigne to come to see my father and who was usually the American Minister to the Tuileries or some other court. I haven't seen one these ever so many years; the sight of it warms my poor old chilled heart; this specimen is wonderful; in the right quarter,"' you know, he'll have s succds fou. h 4 F-.O. Matth.iessen, p "'Henry James, 'The Ambaseadore, p Ibid., p. 77 -
23 Here is the picture of the courageous legislator, the fearless missionary, the stern and resolute moralist, intensely 7 concerned about the "menace of decay' which threatens to undermine personal and. social integrity. Sombre and austere, 8 Waymarsh is to Strether the recognizable "voice of Milrose," J even more "in the real tradition" of the scrupulous New England conscience than Woollett. Strether's perception of Waymarsh's moral distinctiveness is not expressed through either dialogue or narrative description; imagery alone communicates it and thus assumes a narrative function. That the rigor of Waymarsh's moral inflexibility has ruined his emotional health is revealed first of all by his posture, which Is that of a "person seated in a railway-coa'ch 9 with a forward inclination." He simply never relaxes and leans back in the seat; he impresses Strether as being "ex- 10 tremely, as almost wilfully uncomfortable," like a pouting 11 child. He does not sit; rather, he "perch [es]," suggesting, by the slightest analogy with the flutter of birds, the ner- vous agitation which has led to his "flight" ~ from Massachusetts. Besides his posture, his traditional expression of portentous solemnity and gloom has taken on a look of rebellion, Kis features, in fact, sit..clustered and expectant, like a somewhat defiant family group, on the doorstep of their residence. 1,1J The whole effect communicates ''Void., p ^Jj^id., P«31 ^Ibid., p. JO, 10 lbid., p. 29. ' l " I bid. 11 Ibid. 12 Ibid., p. 30.
24 21 Wayiaarsh's inner hostilities and frustrations arid offers a motive for his being in Europe: he has come to save himself by means of a pleasure-trip to Europe from the "nervous collapse" which is the "very proof of the full life, as the full life was understood at Milrose" --hard work and moral zeal. The emotional toll of this kind of life is made abundantly clear through imagery, as is Waymarsh's "multiform failure"^ to find rest or enjoyment in Europe. The proportion of his failure to understand or appreciate anything European, in fact, is later drolly described through art imagery by Miss Barrace and little Bilham: "He doesn't understand not one little scrap. He's delightful. He's wonderful," she repeated. "Michelangelesque!"--little Bilham completed her meaning. "He is, a success. Moses, on the ceiling, brought down to the flo^r; overwhelming, colossal, but somehow portable."" Equating Waymarsh's massive resistance to Europe's great art treasures with the overwhelming grandeur and perfection of Michelangelo's famous painting of Moses on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, they define the magnitude of his incomprehensibility, which to them commands the same kind of awe and wonder as Michelangelo's works. His total lack of response reveals how enormous is his suspicion of European culture, since even in spite of his mental and emotional need to find harmony and peace, he cannot force himself to relax and accept ^I^id., P- 30. ^Ibid, p. 29. l0 Ibid., p. 125.
25 22 Europe as either beautiful or beneficial. Merely by "framing" for the reader one "picture" of Waymarsh and using imagery as the narrative means to interpret it, James accomplishes several ends: he establishes the raison d'etre for the relationship of Strether and Waymarsh; he makes a comment on the emotional health of the Massachusetts moral elite which will later help the reader "see" Mrs. Newsome; he reveals the grounds for and the strength of Waymarsh's deep and hostile suspicion of Europe; he suggests by a polarity of images--rigid passenger/fluttering bird, dignified statesman/pouting child--the internal forces dividing Waymarshj and, most important, he achieves "the grace of intensity," that grace to which, according to James, "... the enlightened story-teller will at any time...sacrifice if need be all other graces whatever." As Strether and the Italian sculptor Gloriani exchange a long, meaningful look during their introduction by Chad on the afternoon of the garden party, James provides the reader with another of Strether's mental impressions or "portraits." To him Gloriani's famous face seems to reveal all the secrets 18 and "sealed up values" of the artist's way of life; it is 19 like an "...open letter in a foreign tongue." If only one could read the language, all the directions for progress, ^'Henry James, "Preface," p "^Ibiti., p Henry James, The Ambassad.ora, p
26 23 for prosperity, for mastery of life, are here revealed. It is the light in Gloriani's eyes in particular which holds Strether, which speaks to him, which even measures him, "as 20 if...he had positively been on trial."" In the "... deepest intellectual sounding to which he had ever been ex- 21 posed," Strether feels that his soul is bared, his substance revealed. As Strether silently examines the "genius" in Gloriani's eyes to see if It is inspiration or analysis, illumination or penetration, a "special flare...of the 22 aesthetic torch" or merely the ''long straight shaft sunk sui by personal acuteness that life had seasoned to steel, he is aware of Gloriani's "plummet" measuring his own intellectual and aesthetic capacities. Because he believes that it is a test and that Gloriani with his "deep human 25 expertness" really knows all about him, his concern becomes "Have I passed?" and "Will I do?"" Consisting of mutual psychological questions and answers, their silent communication is used by James to reveal Strether's concept of a true artist, to illustrate his great sensitivity and imagination, and to demonstrate his innocence of the ways of the world. Little Bilham, for example, even though he is an artist, Ibid., p Ibid., p. 120, z2 rbid., p lbid. 9ll 0 Ibid. J Ibid, 26 T,., Ibia.
27 24 does not feel that he was chosen to attend, the party on grounds of artistic or personal worth; being more socially aware, he realizes that what constitutes an interesting guest list for a successful party has little to do with personal integrity or dedication to art. Besides the "medal-like Italian face" in which "every line was an artist's own," 27 revealing Gloriani's distinctive individuality of life and artistic style, there are also in the background of Strether's mental picture Gloriani's "honours and rewards" for his brilliant innovations in sculpture, which Strether has reverently admired in Luxembourg and "the 28 New York of the billionaires," " Gloriani shines in a constellation of artists, but "with a personal lustre almost violent," which crowns him, for Strether, "with the light, 29 with the romance, of glory." Strether has never met such a famous man before, and his response is...of opening to it, for the happy instant, all the windows of his mind, of letting this rather grey interior drink in for once the sun Q of a clime not marked in his old geography, Woollett knows no such person as Gloriani; neither would it accept such an individual style of life as his no matter what the aesthetic results of it. But images of opening mental windows to the sun and fresh air of artistic Paris illustrate that Strether is becoming.willing to expand, that he is 27 Ibid,, p Ibid. 29 Ibid Ibid.
28 beginning to feel the staleness of Woollett's standards and, therefore, to desire some new "light" and "air." Unknown. climes and unmarked geography refer not only to Woollett, however; they suggest indirectly that neither as artist nor as professional man has Strether known success, another rea- / son for his.present elan. Thus through art imagery, James "frames" and figuratively hangs each important perception in the gallery of Strether's mind so that the reader at his leisure may examine, consider, and "see" Strether's enlightenment in process. Again, imagery serves as a narrative device to reflect Strether's responses, / illustrating his aesthetic awareness, his naivete, and his desire for expansion of spirit which account for his unprecedented actions in Paris. According to T.S. Eliot, Henry James possessed "an integrity so great and a vision so exacting that it was forced to the extreme of care and punctiliousness for exact expression."- 5 "'' For this reason, the reader must give strict attention to the extravagant images relating to Madame de Vionnet, as she stands "framed" in the doorway of Chad's petit salon, for they reveal the degree of her emotional effect on Strether. To him, she is a blend of the "mythological" and the "con- ^2 25 ventional, someone at once familiar and strange, a"goddess still partly engaged in a morning clcud" and a "sea-nymph 31 T.S, Eliot, "A Prediction," Henry James, edited by Leon Edel' (Englewocd Cliffs, New Jersey," 19&3), p. 56. q 2' J Kenry James, The Ambassadors, p. 160.
29 26 waist-high in the summer surge,""' Such images re-capture the "pre-logical mentality" which persists in all civilized men, "but whjch, according to T.S."Eliot, becomes available to them only through art. As an archetype of ancient man's perception of truth, Madame de Vionnet achieves universality; she is Beauty, Grace, Goodness, Wisdom, and, above all, Mystery, and the images illustrate Strether's perception of and response to these ideals. But though she adumbrates all of man's noblest desires and wildest fantasies, she is also the woman who bears and rears his children, who conforms to the customs and sustains the order of his society, and who thus remains quite recognizable, approachable, and "conventional." Madame de Vionnet combines in her person the mysterious and the mundane, the rare and the regular, the ideal of femininity and the ordinary roles of womanhood sister, mother, wife, lover, companion. "Her head, extremely fair and, exquisitely festal," gives Stretner the 3^..notion of the antique on an old. precious medal" J and suggests to him the image of royalty, the range of her reputation, and the arrangement of her classical features. Perhaps, Strether muses, rather than a medal, it was 3 6 "some silver coin of the Renaissance," that period of great ^Ibid. -^Thrall, Hibbard, and Holman, A Handbook to Literature, P 32 Henry James, The Ambassadors, p ^Ibid.
30 27 vitality and intellectual vigor which characterizes not only Madame de Vionnet but also her influence on Strether. In the exact proportion that the term "rebirth" might be applied to the period, so is Strether's Parisian experience a "rebirth" from Massachusetts medievalism, and in the same humanistic way. Recalling his impressions of their first meeting where he sharply and unexpectedly..felt Madame de Vionnet's common humanity," Strether realizes the role she will play in his own renaissance, his quickened sense of "the greater morality, the duty of the spirit oq to find its highest expressions." Strether's first impression of Jeanne de Vionnet gives the reader a further insight into Strether's attitudes toward women, as well as a view of the exquisite jeune fille who is a reflection and creation of her mother. She is,.a 39 faint pastel in an oval frame,"^lovely, delicate, feminine, soft, the essence of maidenly grace and purity. Strether sees her as "...some lurking image in a long gallery, the portrait of a small old-time princess of whom nothing was known but that she had died young."^ Imagery reveals that Strether considers her perfect and regrets that, as a creature of flesh and blood who will love and hate and be.subject to the passions and circumstances of life, she will change. 37 lbid., p _ Edwin T. Bowden, The Themes of Henry James (New Haven, 1956), p "'Henry James, The Ambassadors, p T,,, ]bid.
31 28 Preserved through art, she would remain forever chaste, serene, and innocent, "an ideaf a thought, a "bright flame of memory...diana!" A real woman is a threat, perhaps he feels, and a man loves and worships in safety only when she is "enbalmed forever" h2 through memory or art. If Strether does feel threatened by the reality of sex, his courage in championing Madame de Vionnet is thereby emphasized, for there is no doubt about the risks involved. Knowing how impractical and foolish Woollett considers his new respect for youth, spring, arid beauty, he nevertheless makes his choice: "I decide for Mme de Vionnet, and if my expression, my action i_s to tip down the scale, why, let it tip, and I'll take the consequences. They will represent something--meagre and belated and indirect and absurd as it may bethat 1 shall have done for my poor old infatuated and imaginative self. I didn't know I had it in me, and It's worth all the journey and all the worry to have found out."^3 Strether sees Mamie Pocock's "pleasant public familiar kk radiance" also as a picture, as a reflection and dramatization of Woollett's sociality and what it expects from a fashionable young woman: she should be unfailingly bright and cheerful, invariably present on social occssions, and always conscious of the responsibility of her station in 'j-1 Leon Edel, The Untried Years (Philadelphia, 195^), p ~ ~ hz Ibid. O -"'Henry James, "Project of Novel," p. k08. UH- Henry James, The Amosssadors, t>, 210,
32 29 life. To Strether, her "beautiful benevolent patronage" - is on constant exhibit. "She might have been "receiving' for Woollett wherever she found herself," he thinksj she is habitually posed:..bending a little, as to encourage and reward, while she held neatly together in front of her a pair of strikingly polished hands," k6 Seeing that there is nothing in Mamie's picture but the bright, limited, and patronizing sociality of Woollett which demands nothing more.from its young women than a pleasant smile, Strether thus takes one more step toward the kind of responsible freedom that is true selfhood. By "framing" and delineating Strether's perceptions of his Parisian experiences, art imagery becomes the reader's "friend," guiding him to an understanding of narrative development by suggesting the psychological motivation of action. Primarily, it is through Strether's "felt insights"^' about other characters that the reader "sees" the climaxes of his developing consciousness. However, two other pictures offer clues to the dimensions of Strether *s emerging identity while extending and intensifying the narrative development: (1) a mental painting of Strether's past reflects his character and provides the psychological motivation for his actions in Paris, and (2) a gilt-framed Lambinet landscape painting becomes the setting for the climax of the novel, as Strether Ibid., p Ibid., p. 2* Priscllla Gibson, "The Uses of James' Imagery: Drama Through Metaphor," PKLA, LXIX (Spring, 195 '0, 103k.
33 30 conquers a past that was both aesthetically and economically bleak, embraces a present which is full of awareness and knowledge, and confronts evil and betrayal in a scene richly analogous with the story of Eden. From the moment of his arrival in Paris, Strether is preoccupied with accounting for the "extraordinary sense of 48 ' escape" which he feels. He worries about it; he reflects on it; he reproaches himself first for enjoying Paris and then for being glad that no one from Woollett knows. His preoccupation with the problem reaches a culmination on the morning of the arrival of several letters from Mrs. Newsome, as Strether searches for the exact psychological place to read her letters in order to give Paris and Mrs, Newsome an equal advantage. As he settles on a bench in the beautiful Luxembourg Gardens, he suddenly sees his past in the form of a rather dim painting'hanging before him. At first, he is conscious only that, in sharp contrast to the "sunnily com- 49 posed" picture of the children, nurses, and flowers of the gardens, this grey painting is confusingly out of focus, but as he mentally moves closer to examine it like a person in a gallery fascinated by a particular canvas, he recognizes familiar faces. That he sees Waymarsh in the painting is significant, for it confirms the reader's impression that there has been some important but unexplained past relationship which accounts for Strether's trying so hard now to please Waymarsh.. What their relationship was can only be speculated, 48 Henry James, Thje Aabsgratlora, p Ibid.
34 but the fact that Waymarsh is prominent in the picture marks it as meaningful, Strether next sees Mrs, Newsome, suggesting that she has succeeded Waymarsh as Strether's mentor, but Strether's passing over h6r figure with only a brief glance reveals perhaps that subconsciously he does not want her to be in the picture, that he neither sought nor invited.her counsel. It is therefore highly possible that his reaction to her presence here accounts for his "sense of escape." On closer inspection, he finds that beyond Waymarsh 3 1 and Mrs. Newsome is the..pale figure of.hjs...youth, which held against its breast the young wife he had early lost and the young son he had stupidly sacrificed.los 4- in reflection before them, Strether gives himself up to the 51 "sharp ache." and "soreness of remorse" which their presences evoke. He winces at the sight of them, for he still considers himself responsible for banishing the little boy to a far-away school where he had-died of diphtheria. It was his self-centered grief over the death of the mother, he believes, that caused him to sacrifice the little son, after judging him dull and unlovable. Strether's mental anguish on seeing the.little boy even after all these years offers the clue to his past failures: subconsciously he has desired to fail in order to punish himself, to atone for his "sin" by never again loving anyone. His pained response also accounts for his determined efforts to save Chad; securing ^ Ibid., p. 6l. ^1Ibid.
35 32 a happy, productive life for the young man may lessen his guilt feelings, "A psychological reason is, to my imagination, an object adorably pictorial," -James writes in "The Art of Fiction"; "to catch the tint of its complexion--i feel as if that might inspire one to Titianesque effort. Through the.evocative quality of imagery which both paints and interprets, James explains the "reasons and memories"^ which the reader needs in order to fully understand the events of the story. Thus imagery assumes a narrative function while, at the same time, freeing the narrative itself from cumbersome details. That there are also several other people standing with Strether looking at the grey picture suggests that he is the kind of person whose life is worth observing. Although he feels that his life represents only "so much achievement missed,"-' in reality it inspires confidence and respect in intelligent people. But it is important to remember-that Strether is among those on the outside of the picture; holding this impression in suspension, the reader is then able to measure Strether's involvement in and commitment to life merely by observing carefully at what point Strether discovers himself in the picture. It happens on the day he takes the train to the French 52 - Henry James, "The Art of Fiction," American Critical Essa.vs, edited by Norman Foerster (London., 1930 )~, '"p." 1^37 -^Eenry James, The Ambassadors, p. 6l. ^ Ibid.
36 33 countryside, whose "cool special green" he has seen only..through the little oblong window of the pictureframe."-^ From the moment he steps off the train, he recog-,s.\ nizes the landscape; it isdejavu, "the picture he would have bought,the exact painting "that had charmed him, long years before, at a Boston dealer's and that he had quite 57 absurdly never forgotten.' Painted by Emile Lambinet, a nineteenth century minor French Romantic painter,...it had been offered, he remembered, at a price he had been instructed to believe the lowest ever named for a Lambinet, a price he had never felt so poor as on having to recognize, all the same, as beyond a dream of possibility,5 As he sees now the same poplars, willows, rushes, river, sunny, silvery sky, and "shady woody horizon""^ which he has seen before in "the maroon-coloured, sky-lighted inner shrine of Tremont Street,he is convinced that the wheel of time has turned it up again on purpose, that the "special-green 61 vision" has resolved back into its elements for a specific reason. What was it? Once again, he falls back on his long habit of reflection, but with one significant difference from the contemplation in the Luxembourg Gardens of the picture of his past. 55 Ibld., p Ibld. -^Ibid. ' -^Ibld. <9 9 lbid. ' 60 Ibid. 61 Ibid.
37 3k This time, he is in the picture; it is he who is.. freely walking around in it," who is strolling, sleeping, reading, thinking, exploring, laughing, living, "boring so deep into his impression and his idleness that he might fairly have got through them again and reached the"maroon-coloured 62 wall" of the Boston art store, His experience with the painting thus "becomes for him a psychological transcendence of time, a fusion of his past (characterized by all the constrictions and deprivations known on Tremont Street) with his present (filled with his discovery in 'France-of a free life of the spirit and the senses); out of the secular and spiritual fusion, then, emerges a "new" Strether, a Strether who unites the best characteristics of both cultures, a Strether who is both "finely aware and richly responsible,"^ a Strether with new confidence to live a full and successful life, Strether's aesthetic metamorphosis and romantic assurance that he now sees the ideal "agrement of everything," however, do not complete the man; for completion, James suggests, there must be a realistic confrontation with evil and a conscious choice made concerning it. Stressing the importance of such a confrontation and communicating the scope and magnitude of Strether's discovery, James purposely makes the scene analogous with the temptation experience in the Garden of Eden. f 0 'Ibid»y p Quentin G. Kraft, "The Question of Freedom in James Fiction," Co11ege English, XXVI (February, 1956), 3?^. 6 >4 tienry Jaces, The Ambassadors, p. 307.