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Roderick Hudson



Roderick is unaware of nascent beauty which is lurking inside of him. Things come easy to Roderick. The women in his life smooth the way. They, in turn feel blessed to be in his presence... Roderick is inspired by all things lovely. He sees the world through the lens of the ideal. He feels a lack for something more. Something nameless is missing from his world. Roland sees in Roderick a rare talent which deserves a chance to grow and to develop. Roland has time and resources, and he is restless... Roland wants to do a Great Good. Who could imagine that two splendid souls could collide at just the right moment?--Submitted by Christina Doorrs

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Roderick Hudson.

Henry James, Roderick Hudson Roderick Hudson is James' first novel and gives an initial insight into his acute perception of human psychology, despite by the way, being before Freud. The book is about a young sculptor who is patroned by another young man, the wealthy Rowland Mallet, who invites Roderick to live with him in Italy with the notion that Roderick would become a great artist by living amongst great works of art. Instead, Roderick falls in love with a cynical young American, Christina Light, who has been raised in Europe by her mother with the express idea that her daughter must marry into the best of European aristocracy. There are several main themes within the novel. The first is the notion of helping someone. This is through Rowland Mallet, a sensitive, cultured, refined man, perhaps an alter-ego of James' himself at this age. But unlike James, Mallet has wealth without purpose. Even while appreciating art, Mallet is acutely conscious that he does not have a goal in life; as such, in helping Roderick Hudson achieve the purpose of becoming a great artist, Mallet will achieve something in his own life. And, as always, James is interested in what it means to be an American in contrast to the Old World of Western European culture. The heart of the novel centers on the three characters: Roderick Hudson, Rowland Mallet and Christina Light. There is almost a feel of a love triangle, of a struggle for ascendency over Roderick Hudson between Rowland Mallet and Christina Light. But there are grounds to argue that Rowland is the true antithesis to both Christina Light and Roderick Hudson. How can it be that Rowland is the antithesis to Christina Light and Roderick Hudson given that Rowland is one character while Christina Light and Roderick Hudson are two characters? In many ways, Christina Light and Roderick Hudson share so many of the same flaws and charisma that they seem mere gender counterpoints to the same idea. While Christina Light is not an artist in the sense of Roderick Hudson, she is a consummate production of the self, an artist in the creation of a self-drama. And in essence, this is what attracts Roderick Hudson so fatally to her. They are both individuals each driven by their own capricious moods, a selfish and self-absorbed streak and a distinct knack for telling the uncomfortable truth. Yet, for all that, they are both highly intelligent and charming and much admired by others. As Christina and Roderick are naturals at creating a drama, Rowland is the consummate spectator. So, while our attention is immediately drawn to Christina and Roderick's physical beauty and energy when on their entrance into the story, we are given a rather bland, boring assessment of Rowland upon our first meeting with him. Yet, what matters in this introduction is his niceness, his conscientiousness, and the gradual drawing into his extraordinarily close observation of life. It is because Rowland behaves properly that the question of intruding in another life is one morally rife. In the sentimental novels that were popular in James' period it is assumed in a matter of fact breeziness that it is right for the wealthy to help the worthy poor. However, what is not considered is that such patronage involves leaving one's domestic circle, a sudden rift within the family (the one being patronised suddenly has access to a different level of privileges and opportunities than the rest of the family), as well as a complicated relationship between the patron and the patronised. Rowland's defense of his sudden patronship to his cousin Cecilia contains mixed motivations, having to do with a genuine love of art but also his own desire for more meaning in his life. What is one to make of a decidedly odd situation where a man is responsible for the moral well-being of another man, for Roderick Hudson has been spoiled by his mother and is unused to bearing with the outcome of his actions. But at one remove, Rowland is an astute observer of people and personalities partly through being not glamorous. Most crucially, in drawing the attention away from physical characteristics to the point of ridiculing their physical being, James is able to delve into inner lives and to make them shine forth.

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