The Europeans and the Structure of Comedy (1964)
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Any analysis of the structure of The Europeans should begin with the observation that it is essentially a comic novel. For one thing, it owes much to the well-made dramatic comedies of such nineteenth-century playwrights as Dumas fils, Augier, and Sardou, and also to the narrative romances of Feuillet and Cherbuliez.1 Not only do the wit, the grace, and the situation of The Europeans suggest such works, but also the rigid construction, the careful balancing and juxtaposition of character types, and the rigorously logical progression of events (rendered scenically) to an inevitable conclusion. Also James draws freely upon much older comic patterns, such as the conversion of a traditional society by a group of young intruders to a fresher view of life and the triumph of the young lovers over the objections of their obtuse and narrow-minded elders.2 In addition, The Europeans uses such venerable devices as the comic intrigue and the complicated and neat rounding-off. The atmosphere is pastoral, and the spirit is predominantly gay.
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