Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Daniel J. Schneider
William Shurr, Allison Ensor, L. B. Cebik
Henry James's last completed novel, The Golden Bowl (1904), has elicited a multitude of responses so polarized as to suggest some flaw or, at best, some irreducible ambiguity in the novel. An examination of over 1300 images in the novel led to their classification into seven main groups composed of several subgroups: (1) The Adventurous (discovers and the New World; the exotic; deserts; gardens and paradise); (2) The Sensuous (flowers; boats and water; light, dark, shadows, and veils; children, games and toys); (3) The Superficial (science and technology; the circus; acting, the stage); (4) The Fantastic (animals, hunting, prey; weapons, wounds, warfare; magic, omens, fairy tales; religion, the Grail; royalty); (5) The Material (gold, jewelry; possessions; the museum; buying and selling, finance, values; art and artist; architecture; (6) The Intelligent (knowledge, stupidity; ambiguity; watching, seeing, vision); and (7) The Free (constraint; isolation; escape; freedom). A detailed examination of such images provides clues which dispel much of the "ambiguity" arising from plot or characters.
This intense and complicated imagery reinforces the complexity not only of the relationships in the novel but also of Maggie's journey toward knowledge and maturity and the reader's simultaneous quest for the knowledge Maggie ultimately possesses. It is my contention that Henry James provides enough clues through the imagery for us to break out of the labyrinth of ambiguity which some critics see in the novel, to experience with Maggie the "fascination of knowledge," and to gain insight into James's great moral and aesthetic themes in the novel.
Davis, Marijane R., "The Fascination of Knowledge: Imagistic Clues to the Labyrinth of Ambiguity in Henry James's The Golden Bowl. " PhD diss., University of Tennessee, 1986.