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TheFoolShowin Roderick Hudson JOHN A. COOK Henry James began work on Roderick Hudson in 1874, the same year in which he reviewed a German translation of Turgenev's A King Lear of the Steppe. With this work of his Russian master in mind he appears to have extrapolated significant elements from Shakespeare's play in order to create a similarly ironic tragedy around the issues of irresponsibility, rashness, and lack of trust. Main themes which the play and the novel have in common are: the presence of a fool who mirrors the bad qualities just mentioned, and the father-figure's suspicion and victimization of the innocents in his charge. Roderick Hudson has several major sources. Peter Buitenhuis has noted similarities between the novel and Hawthorne's The Marble Faun.1 Viola Dunbar has brought attention to the plot parallel in Dumas' L'Affaire Clemenceauby discussing the treatment of the free will problem in both works. 2 From two reviews published by James in 1874 Cornelia P. Kelley cites passages which reveal Roderick's egotistical affinities with a Turgenev hero, Dmitri Rudin. 8 In addition, Roderick was certainly modelled after W.W. Story, as well as William Morris Hunt, a friend of the James family who gave art instruction to both William and Henry. Hunt resembled Roderick in his conversational traits,, and in his premature,, mysterious , and possibly suicidal death. 4 The extent to which the drama of Roderick Hudson anticipates James's own shadow 5 problem was revealed many years after the novel was written in his intimate friendships, as described by Leon Edel,6 with the sculptor Hendrik Anderson and the hon vivant Jocelyn Persse. Compare the similarities of the names Hendrik Anderson and Roderick Hudson, and consider that Anderson was a young American sculptor, encountered where else but in Rome. One easily sees how he must have reconstellated the Roderick Hudson figure in James' s mind, fixing the Master's attention on himself just as Roderick had captivated Rowland's imagination. A reconsideration of the novel in light of the Lear paradigm and Edel's biographical disclosures leads to a somewhat different interpretation than has been attempted to date. The 1878 revised edition is the version upon which this paper is based. 7 THE CANADIAN REVIEW OF AMERICAN STUDIES VOL. IV, NO. 1 1 SPRING 1973 The novel begins with descriptions of Roderick and Rowland, and their psychological backgrounds, in order to establish a rationale for Rowland's infatuation with the young artist. From "the dream world of romance" 8 James finds a dream for Rowland Mallet, who wishes he were an artistic genius. His dream content., as projected into the action of the novel., resembles the content of Hawthorne" s romance The Marble Faun. The young American artist (Kenyon., Roderick) goes to Europe in quest of experience., the acquisition of which leads to a liaison with a dangerous lady (Miriam., Christina). Surviving the liaison., he should return to America with his simple, puritan sweetheart (Hilda, Mary). In The Marble FaunKenyon vicariously experiences corruption of the innocent II animal soul" (instinct) through Donatello, the Faun. For Rowland a similar process occurs through the childlike Roderick. Moreover, Roderick Hudson is a very personal exposition of James"s lifelong preoccupation with innocence. Correspondence makes clear that James felt himself a vulnerable innocent while sojourning in Italy and beginning the novel. 9 He was concerned that his attachment to beauties of It;lian art and landscape would alienate him from his more austere homeland. The culture shock he depicts in Roderick is, therefore., to some extent his own. Rowland" s financial anxiety was his own., as well, for he feared he might be enjoying himself too much while on a family-financed tour - as if he might waste their investment if not careful to convert every pleasure into an artistically employable return. It is often suggested that Roderick and Rowland are like two halves of a single personality. In Jungian terms, Rowland is the rigid businesslike ego, well-adapted to the American cultural canon., while Roderick is the ill-adapted, lazy, foolish, imaginative shadow. The fool show is a specific form of the encounter with the shadow., 10 a theme...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-114X
Print ISSN
0007-7720
Pages
pp. 74-86
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-02
Open Access
No
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