Monday, September 20, 2010
James' writings can be divided into three period: the first, roughly 1870s-mid 1880s, is made of novels that describe Americans living abroad in Europe, such as Roderick Hudson. The second period, roughly mid 1880s-mid 1890s, consisted of novels attacking social issues, such as The Bostonians. The final period, starting in the mid 1890s, adopted a psychological approach, as in What Maisie Knew and The Wings of the Dove. The Portrait of a Lady (1881) belongs to the first period.
In addition to his 20 completed novels, James also wrote numerous short stories and novellas, a few plays, and literary criticism, such as The Art of Fiction, which emphasized the analytical value of fiction. Among the writers that influenced him were Balzac and Turgenev, as James valued their realistic approach as a writer who himself disliked romanticism. His older brother William James likely also contributed to his later psychological period.
In The Portrait of a Lady James describes the journey of a young American girl to Europe and her desire to maintain her independence. Nevertheless, she is forced to accept a destiny she, unknowingly, did not choose.