Henry James, unsurpassed master of in-depth psychological portrait, occupies a special place in the history of American literature. He was born in America, most of his life he spent in Europe, and the US and England are still arguing about which of these countries he belongs to most. Heritage of the writer is significant and varied: two dozen novels and stories, more than a hundred short stories, nine plays, two-volume autobiography, memoirs, travel notes, numerous critical and literary works. Insufficiently appreciated during his lifetime, he is now recognized as a classic of Anglo-American literature.
The main theme of the works of James in the early period of his work was a picture of a clash of the Americans with the Europeans and European standards of living. The contrast between the Old and the New World was traditional for American literature of the 19th century.
One of the early work of James was novel the story The Europeans, dedicated to the so-called an international theme. The plot is set in Europe, the main characters are Americans or American expats, but the main plot collision is the conflict between the New World and alien innocently consciousness of the sophisticated European world.
The story tells about how Eugene, Baroness Munster, in the hope of a successful marriage, and her younger brother, the artist Felix, come to Boston. Having settled in the neighborhood, they become close friends with young Wentworths – Gertrude, Charlotte and Clifford.
The wit and finesse of Eugene along with Felix’s cheerfulness create a difficult combination to puritan morality, thrift and inner dignity of Americans. Comic manners and natural delicacy inherent to Europeans is contrasted with New England traditions, resulting in difficult situations, described by the author with subtle contrasts and well-observed details.
Henry’s works are limited to three main problems: the opposition of American sincerity and vulgarity to European mendacity and sophistication, conflict between art and reality, replacement of moral criterion in determination of good and evil by psychological one. Being the comedian of social mores, for Henry Europe was much more attractive than America. Typically, James wrote about American and European upper class, the life of which he knew. He analyzed the influence of the New World for Europe in the story The Europeans, portraying eloquent European luxury and simple New England life.
Henry James, unsurpassed master of in-depth psychological portrait, occupies a special place in the history of American literature. He was born in America, most of his life he spent in Europe, and the US and England are still arguing about which of these countries he belongs to most.