The Confidante in Henry James: Evolution and Moral Value of a Fictive Character

The Confidante in Henry James: Evolution and Moral Value of a Fictive Character

The Confidante in Henry James: Evolution and Moral Value of a Fictive Character

The Confidante in Henry James: Evolution and Moral Value of a Fictive Character

Excerpt

One of the greatest themes in fiction is that of friendship--comradeship between persons of the same sex, or the highly refined friendship of respect and confidence between persons of opposite sex. It is the most natural thing for a hero of fiction to confide his troubles or ambitions to a close and sympathetic listener. Sometimes this listener is a faithful servant, sometimes an equal in class or profession; or again, though less frequently, a tenderhearted woman. In cases of a heroine confiding in a friend, the latter is usually another woman. In most instances, the role of the confidant is subordinate to that of the hero.

For two centuries, the relation of such friends was a pleasant feature in many English novels; but as long as the author wrote from the omniscient point of view, he could readily dispense with the confidant when this character ceased to attract interest. Heroes could cease confiding, because their intimate conversations were not the only means of exposing their thoughts to the reader's scrutiny. Omniscient authors could invade the minds of their heroes at will. Generally speaking, there was no attempt to restrict the point of view in the novels before James; and consequently, the deepest resources of the confidential relation remained untapped.

The only exception to this common practice in the English . . .

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