A study of the bad heroines in the novels of Henry James

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1972

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In most of his novels through the character of the bad heroine Henry James represents his concept of the potential evil in all human relationships. To James, evil results neither from natural depravity nor from social corruption, but from betrayal, deception, exploitation, or coercion, within a relationship in which one person selfishly uses another, so that both are hindered from full development of consciousness. An analysis of the bad heroines in his novels shows James's development both in his sense of the motivations and circumstances which cause evil, and in his ability to represent realistically his ideas in art. Although his basic concept of evil remains unchanged, the style of his later novels becomes increasingly more complex and ambiguous, so that, as in life, evil and innocence become more difficult to determine.

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