Follow TV Tropes


Creator / Henry James

Go To

Henry James OM (15 April 1843 28 February 1916) was an American-born British author of the Victorian Age. Although he became known for writing realist novels about everyday life, his works spanned a wide range of subjects and formats. Despite being born and growing up in the United States, he spent most of his adult life in Europe and became a British citizen a year before his death. Accordingly, one of his favorite subjects was the cultural and psychological difference between the denizens of the old world and the new.

As The Haunting of Hill House drew from Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Bly Manor drew from several of James's stories.

Works by Henry James include:

Other works by Henry James contain examples of:

  • Belated Love Epiphany: Happens to John Marcher in "The Beast in the Jungle".
  • British Stuffiness: Subverted. James often depicted American characters who were as stuffy as (and sometimes more stuffy than) their British counterparts.
  • Delicate and Sickly: May Bartram in "The Beast in the Jungle". She dies.
  • Mind Screw: Done in-universe in "The Figure in the Carpet". The writer Hugh Vereker tells the narrator that all his work has a secret meaning which can be figured out by anyone who puts the work in to do so. The narrator and his friends then spend the entire rest of the story trying to work out what it is. They never do, although one of them claims to have figured it out, but then dies before he has a chance to tell anyone else.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity. Such as in The Ambassadors or The American. Henry James liked using tact as a tool to limit how much information he was giving out.
  • Passion Is Evil: Lambert Strether in The Ambassadors starts out believing this, but he changes his mind.
  • Purple Prose: James wrote in very long and finely crafted sentences.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: The short story "The Real Thing" deserves to be a Trope Codifier: the narrator is an artist who wants to paint a picture of a fictional upper-class family, and who's delighted when he's approached by a down-at-heel but real-life upper-class couple who need cash and are willing to be models for him. He soon finds that they're useless models because they're incapable of seeming like they're who they are, and he goes back to hiring working-class men and women, who are far more relaxed as subjects and who can seem like they're anyone he wants them to be.
  • Unreliable Narrator: His works are often filtered through the perceptions of their point of view subject with a biased or incomplete understanding of the events they perceive. In What Maisie Knew, the complex romantic lives of two people are perceived by their young daughter, who does not understand most of what is going on.
  • Wall of Text: James' writing style evolved into extraordinarily long sentences and paragraphs that run for pages. The effect can be very vivid, but it's also very easy to become lost in the avalanche of words.
  • Wife Husbandry: In Watch and Ward, 29-year-old Roger Lawrence adopts 12-year-old Nora Lambert and grooms her to marry him several years later.

Trivia about Henry James: