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Henry James’s The Ambassadors : Pragmatic Conversion of Perception


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This paper examines the pragmatic experiences and conversion of perception in The Ambassadors. The hero, Lambert Strether, who is engaged to Mrs. Newsome, comes to Paris as an ambassador to take her son Chad Newsome home. The dilemma comes from the fact that Strether, as a man of sensibility, is burdened with Puritan dogmas. However, his moral sense does not remain inflexible and unchanged. It undergoes considerable change as he meets with new experiences in Paris. His inner experience demonstrates a great swing from a public to a private conscience, from a fixed code of conduct to a flexible code of conduct. Strether never stops re-describing experiences by judging each event through his own ‘metaphors.' In particular, the process by which he continuously reconstructs the meanings of the experiences through his moral imagination represents the epitome of the pragmatic attitude. Strether finds himself on the point of losing everything at the end of the novel, and he decides to return to Woollett “to be right.” His decision is a pragmatic conversion that overcomes society's values and finally leads him to perceptive freedom.




  • 문영희 Younghee Mun. 전남대학교


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