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Characters

Character Clues

Character Analysis

Direct Characterization

James is especially fond of telling us about characters through exacting physical descriptions that tell us more than just what people look like. Consider this introduction to Mrs. Miller:

[…] a small, spare, light person, with a wandering eye, a very exiguous nose, and a large forehead, decorated with a certain amount of thin, much frizzled hair. Like her daughter, Mrs. Miller was dressed with extreme elegance; she had enormous diamonds in her ears. (1.164)

Mine it for info backwards: diamonds=she's rich; thin, frizzled hair=she's a little crazy; wandering eye=nervous; spare, light person=not a force to be reckoned with. Thanks, James. You make us feel like psychic investigators.

Names

Daisy is fresh and young and beautiful (check out her "Character Analysis") and Winterbourne is cold and old(ish) and getting even older pretty fast (check out his "Character Analysis"). Makes sense, right? And how about Mrs. Walker, a hypocrite who never walks, and Eugenio, a servant who acts like he runs the whole place? ("Eugenio" means well born or noble).

So clever, HJ. So clever.

Speech and Dialogue

Some people think that everyone in a Henry James novel talks like Henry James. While Jamesian characters do tend to be suspiciously well spoken across the board, we still get a lot of info about each character from what they say and how they say it. For example, when Winterbourne gives little Randolph Miller a lump of sugar, Randolph exclaims, "Oh blazes; it's har-r-d!" (1.7). He's the only character in the novel who'd say something like "blazes" and his choice of expression is meant to tell us that he's a bit of an out-of-control bumpkin.

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