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Tragedy, or Triumph?

Author: XuLongFei
Tutor: LiuShouLan
School: Yunnan Normal University
Course: English Language and Literature
Keywords: freedom the realization of self the transcendence of self Existentialism tragedy order value
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Type: Master's thesis
Year: 2007
Downloads: 31
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Abstract


Henry James is an outstanding American novelist, art critic and stylist. He was extraordinarily productive in literary criticism, biography, itinerary, drama and novel. The Portrait of a Lady was published in 1881, marking the maturity of his literary career. This novel was, and is, the most popular and well-received among his critics and readers. This novel also highlighted his writing technique known as psychoanalysis as well as established his fame as a master writer. His technique of unfolding the plot from the perspective of a particular character was adopted by many European or American novelists.This paper starts from Existentialistic theories about man, examines the classic definitions of tragedy and comedy, adopts partially Carl Jung’s and Maslow’s theories about the self, weighs comments on the fate of the heroine from both foreign and domestic sources and focuses on the discovery of this novel’s inspiring elements. According to resources the author of this paper has thus far gathered, most domestic critics tend to define, of course not without hard evidence, the fate of the heroine as a tragedy; foreign critics, on the other hand, though not attempt to do the same, do not exert themselves to prove that it is not. Through a thorough reading of the novel, the author of this paper finds, under the guidance of the theoretical framework of this paper, that the fate of the heroine holds little resemblance to what domestic critics claim, nor does it fit the profile of tragedy. Quite on the contrary, the author of this paper does not agree that Isabel’s fate is tragic; instead, he thinks that the heroine’s pursuit of independence and freedom, and the transcendence of her self are rather inspiring and enlightening.After careful consideration and weighing, the author of this paper detects at least four positive elements that can help redefine the novel. These four elements are: 1) the pursuit of freedom is inspiring; 2) the realization of her self is inspiring; 3) the transcendence of her self is inspiring; and 4) her final decision to return is inspiring.

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