Misanthropy of Form: John Banville’s Henry James
Keywords:John Banville, Mrs. Osmond, Henry James, The Portrait of A Lady, Misanthropy, Metafiction, Bildungsroman
Mrs Osmond (2017) is unique to date among John Banville’s non-pseudonymous novels in having a female protagonist and no first-person voice. Reviewers have hailed it as a pastiche faithful to the style and dramatic situation of the classic work for which it offers a sequel, Henry James’s The Portrait of a Lady (1881). This essay argues that Mrs Osmond dismantles all the central elements of Portrait. Its manner of doing so shows the fundamental importance of a quality often observed in Banville’s male narrators—misanthropy—to the design of his novels, particularly its close connection to the aspect of his work most highlighted by scholars: metafictional self-reflexivity.
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