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Henry James Master Portrayer of the American Character Thesis Henry James is considered by most critics the originator of the international theme and a masterful portrayer of the American character Henry James developed a skill of foreign languages and an awareness of Europe rare among Americans in his time Constantly moving between different parts of Europe and the US had a major effect on James and his novels it became the major theme of his fiction and an attraction throughout his life In 1875 James moved permanently to Europe settling first in Rome then in Paris and eventually in London While living in London he wasted no time producing the early novels which established his reputation Roderick Hudson The American The Europeans and The Portrait of a Lady In these works critics have stated James explored the effects of European civilization with its rich mixture of history and art on the naive American Swan 15 Most critics divide Jamess career into three periods In the first period from 1867 to the mid 1880s is when he established himself as the originator of the international novel and a masterful portrayer of the American character In his works critics have stated the idea of this international theme to be the New World or the American innocence with the Old World or the European experience In most of his works the story is usually about the naive American traveling to Europe searching for a better way of life or just a change But the American usually winds up feeling isolated or DeLuca 2 just different in their new surroundings But the thing that Jamess works are most often praised for is his portrayal of the American character in the European setting It was in Roderick Hudson what some critics believe to be the best of his first three novels that James developed his concern with the
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