In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Jin Ohsima. A Unified Sensibility: A Study of Henry James's The Ambassadors and Its Scenario. Tokyo: The Hokuseido Press, 1982. 120pp. In A Unified Sensibility, Jin Ohsima sets himself the task of exploring the disparities in artistic and moral vision between Henry James's "scenario" for The Ambassadors and the rich fulfiUment of the novel. Mr. Ohsima's often searching though decidedly unconventional study espouses the thesis that, under the pressure of creation and a growing distrust of European refinement , James fundamentally altered his concept of his protagonist, Lambert Strether, from a character who was to develop an almost unrestricted freedom and a large tolerance for the "animal in man" to one whose conscience led him to redefine experience in "supersensual" or spiritual terms. Mr. Ohsima further maintains that Strether's evolution into a man of fastidious conscience compelled James to make radical adjustments of his original assumptions about most of his characters and of his narrative strategies. Thus, the seemingly trivial change that Strether's male confidant undergoes from the "Waymark" of the scenario to the "Waymarsh" of the novel reveals to Mr. Ohsima deep changes in the character's function. Moreover, Mamie and Jim Pocock assume new roles, and Maria Gostrey takes on an almost new identity from a reminiscence of Henrietta Stackpole to a wise and witty guide through the mazes of Europe. Most drastically, however, Madame de Vionnet turns from an enchanting woman to an untrustworthy enchantress, and Chad, pictured in the scenario as an engaging cosmopolite, becomes a polished and nefarious schemer. In justifying his undertaking, Mr. Ohsima sets out to correct critics like F. O. Matthiessen who, he believes , have misread The Ambassadors under the mistaken notion that the scenario fully explains the novel. What Professor Ohsima proposes is that two different Strethers and two opposed definitions of "life" emerge from an examination of what James called his Project of Novel and The Ambassadors. The early Strether, the argument runs, is less inhibited by a Puritan conscience from responding to Europe's sensuous charms. Not appalled by the immorality he encounters, he absorbs the lesson of Europe so sympathetically that he can freely reject the unimaginative and prudish outlooks of Mrs. Newsome and WooUett. In contrast to this free spirit, the later Strether is troubled by the appeal of a Paris at once opulent in its beauty and undeterred by insular moralities . He escapes his dilemma, in Mr. Ohsima's view, by delusively converting Paris into an imaginary world where aesthetic and moral sensibilities exist in harmony. Strether thus comforts himself with two illusions: that Chad's refinement from a crude provincial to an agreeable Parisian has entailed no compromise with WooUett virtues and that Chad's close relations with the woman who remade him is therefore a "virtuous attachment." Mr. Ohsima contends that, given their opposed natures, James's heroes react differently when they discover Chad and Madame de Vionnet linked in an adulterous affair; the Strether of The Ambassadors confronts his romantic innocence with tragic clarity and a sense of defeat whereas the protagonist of the scenario takes his disillusionment as an almost necessary step in his education. With more symmetry than persuasiveness , Mr. Ohsima derives two starkly different definitions of "Uving" from the two documents; he argues that the original Strether conceives of life as immersion in and acceptance of reality while his later counterpart heightens "Ufe" into something idealized, aesthetic, and purged of physical grossness. Mr. Ohsima sees James's fictional hero as so transparently eager to be deluded that Little Bilham, Madame de Vionnet , and, most notoriously, Chad have little trouble in feeding him what he wants to believe; even Maria Gostrey respects his delusion and, except for a few hints to the contrary, aUows him to spin fanciful theories. This perhaps acceptable interpretation of Strether as the dupe of his own imagination leads Mr. Ohsima into some of his most daring and reckless speculations. Maintaining that James degraded Chad from the pleasant young man of the scenarVolume VI 69 Number 1 The Henry James Review Fall, 1984 io to an adventurer seeking expanded opportunities for sexual license in Europe, Mr. Ohsima suggests that Chad dislikes Strether and...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6555
Print ISSN
0273-0340
Pages
pp. 69-70
Launched on MUSE
2010-03-25
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.