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Blog #5 “The Pupil”

Henry James “The Real Thing” James plays with the exact meaning of the “real thing” throughout the stories clever and an interesting plot, which was suggested to him by one of the British novelist and illustrator George du Maurier. The narrator of the short story is unknown but he is a painter. He hires a couple a husband and wife, after they have lost most of their money and must find some work to survive. They are the “real thing” in aristocratic terms, but they prove to be hard and unskilled for the painter’s work. The Monarchs do not in fact make good models at all. But there is a deeper, more thoughtful reason that the couple cannot represent “just anybody.” The artist, himself, does not feel they are “just anybody.” Because he is not of the upper class himself, he is more than a little in fear of them; in fact, whenever he tries to work them into a picture, they always appear oversized in the picture. The couple speak and walk and carry themselves like they are born upper class, and they are useless as models because the artist cannot make them look like anything else. James does not make the short story into a debating point. The characters in the story all come alive as fully with their own creations. The reader can also express sympathy for the couple even as they prove all too of being useless, and the narrator himself is memorable for his increasingly worried but eventually attempts to help them.

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~ by rida on March 31, 2011.

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