Maisie Learned What Maisie Knew, by Henry Term Paper

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Maisie Learned

What Maisie Knew, by Henry James, is a novel written in 1897 about a little girl whose parents divorce, and Maisie is then repeatedly used by both parents in power plays. Neither parent cherishes or nourishes her emotionally as parents should. The thing that ultimately saves Maisie's childhood is her nanny, Mrs. Fix. Maisie is a perceptive observer of the behavior of the adults around her, and she is given quite a show to see. She spends six months of each year with each parent, accompanied by her nanny.

From the very first page we can see that Maisie has been used as a pawn even in the divorce agreement: her father has been given custody of her but has to repay the child support money her mother put up. She
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only gets to spend six months with her mother because her father cannot repay the money, and both parents come out of this court decision feeling resentful. There is no expression of joy from the mother that she will be reunited with her child for extended time; she is angry about the lost money. As the author describes it,

She was abandoned to her fate. What was clear to any spectator was that the only link binding her to either parent was this lamentable fact of her being a ready vessel for bitterness, a deep little porcelain cup in which biting acids could be mixed." (p. 6)

Both parents remarry, and those marriages end when her new stepparents become attracted to each other. Maisie learns something no child should have to learn is that she is better off relying on herself than her parents, who seem incapable of loving her in any useful way. She learns that by accepting the adage that "Children…

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