The Bostonians By Henry James Essay

867 words - 3 pages

The Bostonians by Henry James

The Bostonians, by Henry James was a very interesting piece. James' underlying tone for the spiritualism and fascination is clearly a picture of the time when the piece was written. I thought that is played an important influence in his writing. Ruth Hall, by Fanny Fern is an unofficial biography of her own life as a women activist. One of the underlying issues that stand out in her novel is the way that she includes the lower-class women right along with the middle-class. This was not a common ideal shared by all women activists at this time. Both of these underlying issues in these books keep the reader interested it their works.
During the nineteenth-century fascination and spiritualism were very prevalent in society. You can see James' attraction to these forms of power and healing by his continual reference to Dr. Selah Tarrant, Verena's father. In The Bostonians, Dr. Tarrant was introduced as a healer, almost as a freak. James does his best to attempt to portray Dr. Tarrant as an oddball, but continually brings him up throughout the novel. This shows James' fascination with the aspect of spiritual healing and how powerful he believes it can be. It almost gives the reader the sense that the powerful and influential people of the time did not want to openly practice these beliefs, but did so under the manner of their own homes or in some private forum.
Another aspect of his fascination can be seen in how James portrays Dr. Tarrant's daughter, Verena. She is almost given a mesmerizing power by James, to control the people around her. Verena does not use this power intentionally, but it just naturally comes out in her efforts for the women movement. She draws Olive Chancellor, her best friend, in with her mesmerizing power. So much so that when Basil appears in the novel and starts courting Verena, she becomes very protective. Basil too is hypnotized by Verena and her hidden powers. James contrasts the two characters, Dr. Tarrant and his daughter Verena. Olive and Basil love Verena, but they dislike her father. It seems odd that they would dislike the father of the one that they hold dear, especially with all the same characteristics that they share. They are, in essence, both practicing the same type of medicine. They are using the subconscious to achieve their goals. The only difference is that Dr. Tarrant openly...

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