Study Guide

The Wings of the Dove Appearances

By Henry James

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Characters in The Wings of The Dove spend a whole bunch of time people-watching. They also spend a bunch of time being watched. In a world where nobody seems to say what they mean, appearances often give the best insight into a person's character and motives. Everyone in this book is middle to upper class, meaning that they spend most of their time at dinner parties and in living rooms, sizing one another up from a distance. Yuck. Sometimes appearances are comforting and sometimes they're downright unsettling. And sometimes, just sometimes, they're totally misleading. That's when—for Henry James at least—things get interesting…

Questions About Appearances

  1. On the whole, do appearances in this novel give us a good indication of what kind of people we're dealing with? Why or why not?
  2. What role does physical beauty play in the life of Milly Theale? Use specific evidence from the novel to support your answer.
  3. In what instances are people fooled by appearances in this book? Why are they fooled?

Chew on This

In The Wings of the Dove, we learn that there are few things more important than physical beauty.

In The Wings of the Dove, Henry James shows us that appearances can often be deceiving, especially when people only see what they want to.

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