The commodification of Kate Croy in Henry James's The wings of the dove

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Schwartz, Sharon
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This thesis argues that in Henry James's 'The Wings of the Dove, ' the problematic narrative technique inhibits how the story is transmitted to the reader. Here an intrusive narrator gives the reader his impressions of all of the characters, rather than any factual knowledge. Therefore, the reader cannot come to any full understanding of Kate Croy, and can only interpret her actions. The first chapter of this thesis argues the improbability of any true knowledge of the character of Kate Croy. To see her only as a Jamesian villain who uses Milly to her own advantage is to ignore her creative power as an artist, given her difficult circumstances. All of the characters in the novel participate in the credo of Lancaster Gate society that no one does anything for nothing, and all are users. Kate is used by all of the characters in the novel as they try to possess what they see she has; the sense of life that James has given her in her role as the artist of the novel. The second chapter argues that although the n rrator is very credible, the reader bears only of the "impressions" he has gathered, rather than any factual knowledge about any of the characters. The narrator becomes almost another character in the story, a "reflector", giving us his opinions about all of the other characters. The reader must not take the narrator's interpretation of Kate's actions as fact. The third chapter relates how James gives value to Kates character as an artist, one who creates meaning, and the dangers inherent in adopting a "fixed" position, that of losing one's imaginative and creative skills. For James, this notion of not being able to reshape one's existing circumstances was intolerable, and he depicts, in 'Wings,' Kate's value in her ability to try, under very difficult circumstances, for her freedom.