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Wings of a Dove, The

a novel by Henry James, published in 1902. This novel marks the peak of James's writing career. The central protagonist is Milly Theale, a rich young woman, beautiful in person and character, who recognizes that she is suffering from an incurable disease and that she must soon prepare to die. The influence of her fading life upon all those around her—those who envy her wealth, those who seek to manipulate her, and those who wish to protect her—is the principal focus of the novel. James outlines the changing alignments of her associates and friends as they jostle to entrap or free the ‘dove’ Milly. Milly has slowly been developing an affection for the journalist Merton Densher. However, unbeknownst to Milly, her other friend, Kate Croy, has for a long time been engaged to Densher, and the two have been trying to engineer a way for the mortally ill Milly to marry Densher, so that as a rich widower he may marry Kate. However, Densher becomes increasingly devoted to Milly, and he refuses her dying bequest, without which Kate will not marry him. In novel which focuses on the mechanisms of predator and prey, desire and victim, James highlights the vicious circles of power and entrapment that money and sex can enforce.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Patrick White (Patrick Victor Martindale White) Biography to David Wojahn Biography