What Maisie Knew

What Maisie Knew

What Maisie Knew

What Maisie Knew

Synopsis

What Maisie Knew (1897) represents one of James's finest reflections on the rites of passage from wonder to knowledge, and the question of their finality. Neglected and exploited by everyone around her, Maisie inspired James to dwell with extraordinary acuteness on the things that may pass between adult and child. In addition to a new Introduction, this edition of the novel offers particularly detailed notes, bibliography, and a list of additional readings.

Excerpt

What Maisie Knew is one of James's trickier titles. It seems to make a promise, but readers have been known to finish the novel still wondering, what did Maisie know?

Maisie belongs to a phase of intense activity shortly after James was shocked out of his obsession with the theatre by the reception of his play Guy Domville in January 1895. the next nine years saw, a sustained surge of creative activity culminating in his three weightiest and, for many though not all of his readers, greatest novels, The Ambassadors, The Wings of the Dove, and The Golden Bowl. But before that, as the nineteenth century drew to its close, he produced a series of masterpieces on a smaller scale, including The Spoils of Poynton, What Maisie Knew, The Turn of the Screw, and The Awkward Age.

Of these four Maisie displays the most 'classic' features. in taking its shape from the growth of an ingenuous youngster, it affiliates itself to the general tradition of the Bildungsroman or 'education novel', and specifically to some great English versions of the genre such as David Copperfield and Great Expectations, Jane Eyre and The Mill on the Floss. It also looks back to some of James's own earlier works, to the Watch and Ward of the 1870s, to The Portrait of a Lady and The Princess Casamassima of the following decade. But there is a big difference to Maisie. the child travels towards the adult but does not cross the frontier. in this respect the novel bears comparison with the masterpiece of James's slightly older contemporary, Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), and even with that other classic boy's story by a younger contemporary, Kipling Kim (1901). Close to home, there had been for the young James himself, a whole specifically American tradition of the girl who braves the world on her own. Reviewing Louisa May Alcott back in 1865, James had complained that he was 'utterly weary of stories about precocious little girls'. But he overcame this aversion, and when it came to his . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.