restricted access Conscience and Consciousness in The Ambassadors: Epistemology, Focalization, and Narrative Ethics

Through focalization and details like reflexive pronouns, verbs of perception, and counterfactuals, Henry James’s narrator in The Ambassadors reveals that Lambert Strether’s consciousness and conscience are not just perceived, but imagined, even created. This creation of Strether’s interior world foregrounds the solipsistic torque of focalization on narrative ethics, suggesting the narrator and focalizing character as the principal directors of the novel’s ethics, as of its perception. While Strether’s conscience can hardly make claims on other characters, much less on readers, focalization both proffers a model of ethical response and makes conscience the command center of a new ethical world.