The American in The American 12th Grade
The American by Henry James is a masterly crafted novel that explores the differences between the American and European cultures. Through the main character, Christopher Newman, the author is able to articulate a clear and distinct criticism of American culture in that Americans have no ability to separate reality from their ideals and the Americans in the novel must alter their perceived reality in order to match up with their beliefs.
For Newman, the clash between his fantasies and reality becomes apparent with the clash between the commercial language with the more romantic language. His reality is business and his ideal is represented by his romantic fantasies about being a knight in shining armor, ready to save the beautiful Claire. In Christopher Newman, the romantic and the businessman are one.
At the end, when Newman is contemplating about his situation in England, he finally “[attempts] to read the moral of his strange misadventure” (438). Here is one of the only times in which Newman questions whether being commercial was interfering with his pleasantness. The narrator has to hint that it is in Newman’s capability to recognize the truth. However, Newman isn’t willing “to flap his wings very hard to rise to the idea”...
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