Thursday, June 23, 2005

Even better the 2nd Time

My favorite of James' novels are those composed at the beginning of his final phase, when the complexities of his heroes (and his heroines in particular) leapt several notches above even the multifaceted Isabel Archer in The Portrait of a Lady.

Fleda Vetch misses her chance at happiness because she strives to be upright and moral. She demands freedom from the machinations of those tugging at her loyalties, those attempting to buy or manipulate her. These are admirable characteristics, and James punishes Fleda sorely for her high standards. Victory leaves her with ashes in her mouth--Fleda's morals doom her to an unremarkable life of poverty; her triumph is to maintain those high ideals at the cost of love.

The lesson? Be impetuous. Take risks. Avoid Henry's own sad fate.