Study Guide

Sir Luke Strett in The Wings of the Dove

By Henry James

Sir Luke Strett

If Lionel Croy is the most despicable man in this book, Sir Luke Strett is the most moral and upstanding. Merton is a pretty good dude, but he's way more indecisive than Sir Luke. Apart from the fact that Sir Luke is the most respected doctor in all of London, you get a sense of just how impressive the guy is when you read Milly Theale's first impression of him:

His large, settled face, though firm, was not, as she had thought at first, hard; he looked, in the oddest manner, to her fancy, half like a general and half like a bishop, and she was soon sure that, within some such handsome range, what it would show her would be what was good, what was best for her. (1.5.3.1).

Just looking at this guy inspires Milly with the confidence that Sir Luke will always know what's best for her. I mean come on. He looks like a hybrid bishop-general. That's like saying "That woman is really sweet. She looks like she's half-nurse, half-kindergarten teacher. She also smells like Grandma's cookies."

As the book unfolds, Sir Luke becomes a sort of father-like figure. He knows that Milly is terminally ill, but the only thing he tells her is that living is a choice she can make every day of her life. In other words, Sir Luke teaches Milly that "live" is an active verb, and something you get up and choose to do. As he mentions at the end of one of their first meetings, "My dear young lady,' said her distinguished friend, 'isn't to 'live' exactly what I'm trying to persuade you to take the trouble to do?'" (1.5.3.60).

We love this guy. We think that Luke Skywalker was probably named after him.

Milly has Sir Luke to thank for all of the beauty she experiences in the final months of her life. In these months, she does more living and feels more happiness than she has in her entire life up to that point. Sir Luke is wise and Sir Luke is right. And when you get down to it, Sir Luke saves Milly's life in a symbolic way, even if he can't do it in a literal way.

We're not crying. We're just, uh, chopping onions over here.