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Written by Timothy Sexton
Roderick Hudson is not happy to be forced into the study of law and he’s certainly not very good at it. When your dad has died and you are living with your mother in Massachusetts where the country was born from the work of lawyers, that’s what you do when your real dream is to become a sculptor. Which is something Roderick actually is good at it. Still, what hope does Roderick really have to get unstuck from his rut and actually pursue a career in art that he’s talented at? Not much…until his path crosses with Rowland Mallet.
Rowland Mallet also hails from the England which has been term New in the northeastern part of the U.S. He has no talent, but he knows it talent when he sees it. He has no great ambition, but he knows that the rich get richer by recognizing those with ambition. Rowland is rich and Roderick has talent. All Roderick needs is a little prodding to work up his ambition and when the paths of these two men cross, that is exactly what happens. Things start turning out pretty well for both men as Roderick begins producing some pretty impressive works of sculpture after they resettle in Rome. Until Roderick becomes obsessed with Christina Light and Rowland himself fixates on Roderick’s cousin, Mary Garland.
Christina is beautiful and American and has spent most of her life in Europe being prepared for one purpose: landing a rich husband. Roderick becomes obsessed with her and Mallett views her as an obstruction to his artist achieving everything he can and, complicating matters further, Christina’s mother is busy trying to finagle and arranged marriage with an Italian Prince. Ultimately, the mother gets her way as the result of the strong likelihood that Christina’s birth was not exactly entirely legitimate which could, of course, leave them in precarious financial straits without that rich husband.
Mary is actually a distant cousin on the side of Roderick’s mother. When Roderick takes off for Rome with Rowland, Mary becomes something of a constant companion to the old woman. Rowland is head over heels for Mary right from the moment he first sees, but in his desire to mine Roderick’s artistic ambitions, he suppresses those emotions and as a result Mary is oblivious to the fact that she is adored. Of course, another reason for Rowland's reluctance to pursue her openly is Roderick's announcement as they set sail for Italy: he has proposed marriage to Mary and she has agreed.
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