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Literature / The Europeans

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Short novel by Henry James, originally published in 1878. Set in 1840s New England, the story follows European siblings Eugenia Münster and Felix Young who, following the breakdown of the former's marriage, have traveled to meet their American relatives for the first time - strait-laced uncle Mr Wentworth and cousins Charlotte, Gertrude and Clifford Wentworth.

A gentle comedy of manners ensues as the representatives of the Old World and the New navigate their cultural differences.

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This work contains examples of:

  • Aloof Big Sister: Eugenia, to some extent. Though she is definitely not demonstrative, and occasionally casts a critical eye on her brother, she is clearly fond of him.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Gently Played for Laughs.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Felix and Eugenia, respectively. In the Wentworth family, Charlotte is dutiful and obedient, and Gertrude has long been accused of being the foolish sibling in comparison, because of her idiosyncratic nature, though brother Clifford fits that role more.
  • Grande Dame: Though 32-year-old Eugenia is much younger than most examples, she has a lot of the characteristics of a Grande Dame.
  • Gratuitous French: In spades from Eugenia and Felix, who were raised partly in France.
  • Impoverished Patrician
  • Kissing Cousins: It's the 19th century, it's to be expected.
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  • Marry for Love: Gertrude's insistence upon a love-match infuriates her family, though Felix is quick to scorn the idea of an arranged marriage. That the supposed "Old Worlders" are more set against this dated social convention than the Americans is one example of the central irony of the novel.
  • Motor Mouth: Felix.
  • Old-Fashioned Rowboat Date: Two between Felix and Gertrude.
  • The Pollyanna: Felix is a rare male example.
  • Starving Artist: Though by no means destitute, Felix has little money to his name.
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