Selected Tales of Henry James Background

Selected Tales of Henry James Background

The Selected Tales of Henry James represent a concerted effort to provide a cross section of the wealth of talent that was the short fiction of Henry James. Speaking of size, there is a good reason why the narratives in this collection are termed tales rather than short stories. The length of each individual entry varies from around 5,000 to 45,000 words; it is not unusual to find the second story here, Daisy Miller, standing on its own among the novels of Henry James.

The byword of any work by Henry James, regardless of length, is psychological penetration. While he often wrote about American expatriates coping with being an outsider among the European customs and traditions that are inextricably tied to everything that America fought against and established its independent from, James proves himself equally adept at plumbing the psychological motivations behind his recurring themes even when pitting Americans against their own society.

Among those most Jamesian themes that pop up with regularity in The Selected Tales of Henry James are the relationship between the artist and those he depends upon to remain an artist, the personal consequences of class conflict, the dichotomy between innocence and experience as it relates to the struggle between tradition and rebellion and a special delight for those who only know James as a result of The Turn of the Screw: another creepy and psychologically penetrating story about a seeing supernatural spectral being or at least the perception of having seen one.

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