Henry James and His Women

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Henry James and His Women An Excerpt from a Research Essay by Meredith Ludwig ....One final female figure important in understanding James' view of women is his cousin Minny Temple. Minny and James developed a relationship so deep and close it is often compared to the love shared between two of James' characters, Ralph Touchett and Isabel Archer. For James, as Kaplan states, Minny took on "some of the presence of [a sister] and some of the glamour of female mystery" (48). James had a fondness for Minny, for her "precociousness, her brashness, her independence of spirit" (Kaplan 49). James felt a love for Minny that went much beyond the love one feels for a cousin. He became passionate over Minny; however, he knew that a marriage between them could never exist, just as Ralph knew he could never really have Isabel. It is no surprise that with such strong feelings towards Minny she would appear time and again in James' women characters. Perhaps Minny most presents herself in James' characters because, as Kaplan states, "Minny attacked life. If she was reckless, it was a recklessness that excited [James]" (74). Her recklessness was not the only reason James fell in love with Minny. She also found herself pulling away from her narrow role in the Victorian Age. Minny wished to travel, discover and challenge the world around her. This is found in many of James' female characters, women who are independent of their social role, remaining strong in their personality. The relationship between Minny and James may have also influenced his writing because he found himself taking the feminine role in their relationship. Kaplan says that James "reversed their gender roles and acted as the passive support for her aggressive independence" (91). It seems that James' affinity towards his feminine side came from a better understanding of those things feminine rather than those things
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