“He is looking for that quality which you must allow me to call ‘modernity’; for I know of no better word to express the idea in mind.” (40 ). The ephemeral, the fugitive, the contingent, the half of art whose other half is the eternal .  Every age of art is known for a certain kind of beauty.  One must study the old masters in order to learn how to paint.  But that painter of todays generation must understand present day beauty.  One must be an observer of life to understand beauty.   “The idea of beauty which man creates for himself imprints itself on his whole attire, crumples or stiffens his dress, rounds off or squares his gestures, and in the long run even ends by subtly penetrating the very features of his face.” (37). These engravings are either beauty or ugliness, antique or new.

In “The Pupil”, i thought I would be reading of an eye.  Not a student and tutor relationship.  In Morgan’s case he lives in a horrific environment that  is tragically provided by his own family. One of James’ characters falls ill to society and an actual disesase.  This short story can be called a classic tragedy.  There’s no doubt that Morgan is disappointed when he sees Pemberton hesitate about taking him away from his worthless family.  In a sense, perhaps this is what killed him.

“The Real Thing” is everything but the real thing.  James plays with the whole meaning of the ‘real thing’ throughout the plot.  In relating the real thing to the senior seminar class as  a whole, many profound questions come to mind.  Sometimes, one can wonder in life what actually is real.  The pupil’s love for his tutor? or rather is that his last option only because of his family? Beauty in present day? or rather replicated beauty from past generations? Henry James not only is confusing, but he really cracks codes that I would rather have left unquestioned.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

One Response to “#5 Henry James & “The Painter of Modern Life”””

  1.   Dominique Zino said:

    Maggie, keep returning to your expectations about “The Pupil” — in what ways does its title invite us to link the idea of the “pupil” that you anticipated to the idea of the “pupil” as student? Who/what is the pupil?

Leave a Reply