Tone in Henry James Term Paper

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tone used by Henry James in his stories, Brooksmith and the Real Thing. The writer of this paper explores each story to determine the story's tone, in view of the total imaginative structure and how it relates the meaning of the story to the reader. There were two sources used to complete this paper.

Throughout history authors have used tone to convey emotion in the stories that they write. The tone can be between the author and the characters, or the author and the reader, but it is usually a combination of both types of tone. Tone can also change throughout a story. This can often cause the reader to feel drawn into the story as the tone of real life changes with time as well. One famed author, Henry James used tone to convey emotions between himself and his characters, as well as himself and the reader. In two of his stories, The Real Thing and Brooksmith, James uses tone as a narrator to help the reader feel what he felt within the context of the story.


In the story called The Real Thing the author's tone changes over the course of time as he gets to know the major and his wife. It is a tone that is true to what might happen in real life if one were to meet to such people under similar circumstances.

When the narrator opens the story and meets the Major and his wife the story is set with a sympathetic tone. The sympathy is for the Major and his wife as the narrator relays the pitiful way thy begged without begging for a job as models. Though they were both to old and plain looking to be used as true models the narrator took pity on them and used them sometimes. The entire tone of pity for the couple is sprinkled through the beginning chapters of the story and it is conveyed to the reader though it takes the reader some time to feel the pity that the narrator feels.

Mrs. Monarch sat still, not from pride but from shyness, and presently her husband said to her: "Get up, my dear, and show how smart you are." She obeyed, but she had no need to get up to show it. She walked to the end of the studio and then came back blushing, her fluttered eyes on the partner of her appeal (James)."

The above passage sets the tone of pity to begin because the reader understands at this point that there is no work for such an elderly and plain couple in the world of modeling, yet they refuse to give up and keep trying to convince the narrator they can be something that they cannot, because they have no money and need the work.

The narrator does take a tone of pity as does the story because he in fact tells them he can use them sometimes and they begin to show up daily hoping for work. It further engages the tone of pity when the reader is made to understand how gracious the couple is. On the days that they cannot be used which happened often enough, they were kind and gracious, though they did stick around just in case.

The tone begins to change in the story as they become friends of the narrator. The friends change the tone so that it is now a tone of respect and mutual admiration. The narrator conveys this new tone through the following passage.

One day when my young lady happened to be present with my other sitters -- she even dropped in, when it was convenient, for a chat -- I asked her to be so good as to lend a hand in getting tea, a service with which she was familiar and which was one of a class that, living as I did in a small way, with slender domestic resources, I often appealed to my models to render. They liked to lay hands on my property, to break the sitting, and sometimes the china -- it made them feel Bohemian. The next time I saw Miss Churm after this incident she surprised me greatly by making a scene about it -- she accused me of having wished to humiliate her. She hadn't resented the outrage at the time, but had seemed obliging and amused, enjoying the comedy of asking Mrs. Monarch, who sat vague and silent, whether she would have cream and sugar, and putting an exaggerated simper into the question. She had tried intonations-as if she too wished to pass for the real thing -- till I was afraid my other visitors would take offence (James)."

Through this passage the tone clearly changes to respect and equality. It is not long before the reader is eager to hear that the Major and the Monarch have arrived. Their visits become as social as they do work related and for a while the narrator and the couple share a mutual tone of respect for each other. The pity is gone and that is evidenced by the attitude of the narrator who discusses the enjoyment he gets from their talks and their presence.

The quality of the emotion of the characters have a great deal to do with the emotional tone of the story. The characters are easy to like and easy to feel sorry for. While the author goes to an angry tone for a small bit when he is first rejected professionally he returns to the tone of sympathy in short order as the major and the Monarch clean his kitchen just to be in his presence even after being told they cannot model and almost cost him his career.

This one passage is the only place the tone changes to anger but it is an important point because it dovetails with what often happens in new relationships once they have settled in. "I was disappointed, I was nervous, I wanted to get on with my work; so. I replied with irritation: "Oh my dear Major -- I can't be ruined for YOU!"

Shortly thereafter the major and the Monarch come back and are no longer seen as equals but as pitiful lonely creatures of habit. The story has a constant tone of pity for the Major and his wife and for all those in the world who loses their place and cannot seem to find a new one.

The story Brooksmith presents an entirely different tone throughout the story. It is interesting to read the two one right after the other because it showcases the talent of James, in the ability to take on the voices of his character needs instead of his own.

The tone of this story is one of detachment. It is unusual to find a tone of detachment in a story because that can run the risk of turning the reader off. It can fail to get the readers attention, however in this case it works because it conveys what a lot of the people in the story were about.

Oh we went perpetually, and it was not our fault if he was not overwhelmed with this particular honour. Any visitor who came once came again; to come merely once was a slight nobody, I'm sure, had ever put upon him. His circle therefore was essentially composed of habitues, who were habitues for each other as well as for him, as those of a happy salon should be. I remember vividly every element of the place, down to the intensely Londonish look of the grey opposite houses, in the gap of the white curtains of the high windows, and the exact spot where, on a particular afternoon, I put down my tea-cup for Brooksmith, lingering an instant,…[continue]

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