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Golden Bowl, The

The Golden Bowl, The Wings of a Dove, The Ambassadors, James: The Later Novels

a novel by Henry James, published in 1904. The Golden Bowl is the last of the three great final novels—the others are The Wings of a Dove (1902) and The Ambassadors (1903)—which many critics hold to be the pinnacle of his achievement in fiction. The plot, one of labyrinthine moral complexity, revolves, essentially, around Maggie Verver, the daughter of an American millionaire, who marries Prince Amerigo, an impoverished Italian aristocrat. One of Maggie's friends, another American, Charlotte Stant, with whom Amerigo has had an affair (they had not married because neither had enough cash), subsequently marries Maggie's father, Adam Verver (the chief motive being to free Maggie from any guilt that might attach to her having abandoned a father for a husband), but Charlotte continues her affair with Amerigo. The second half of the novel deals with Maggie's discovery of the liaison and her reactions to it, presented largely through the methods of ‘interior narration’ and point-of-view that characterize James's late works. The novel is, in part, a social comedy but its mood becomes increasingly dramatic as it progresses and many readers find its narrative strategies disconcertingly complex. James's ‘Preface’ to the first edition is an important account, both of its nature and of its composition. See Nicola Bradbury's James: The Later Novels (1979).

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Ellen Gilchrist Biography to Grain