Henry James pp 304-315 | Cite as

Metaphor in the Plot of The Ambassadors (1951)

  • William M. Gibson
Part of the Modern Judgements book series (MOJU)


In the course of elucidating the method and meaning of Henry James’s fiction, such critics as F. O. Matthiessen, Austin Warren, and Adeline Tintner have thrown particular light on his use of works of art for compositional purposes, and have traced his developments from an early, almost unqualified worship of art for its own sake to a position in which possession of art objects without an understanding of their source and meaning in life becomes stultifying or even dangerous to the possessor.1 From the Veronese marriage-feast of Cana of Galilee which Christopher Newman so admires to the Bronzino portrait in which Milly Theale sees herself reflected, or Strether’s Lambinet, or the Chinese pagoda which Maggie Verver envisions as a symbol of her isolation from Charlotte and the Prince, it is abundantly clear that works of art, functioning metaphorically, are indispensable plot elements in James’s fiction.


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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Limited 1968

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  • William M. Gibson

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