Only she can genuinely appreciate, and perhaps eventually share, Mrs Gereth's own passion for the exquisite antique treasures she has amassed at Poynton Park. Her son Owen, though, has engaged himself to be married to the embarrassingly nouveau philistine Mona Brigstock. A dramatic family quarrel unfolds, drawing Fleda, James's hesitating heroine, into its heart. Why is it that Fleda seems to be incapable of capturing Owen, remaining silent while her love for him is so evidently returned? Is she motivated by scruple or perversity? Is hers a true renunciation or a dilemma springing from sexual ignorance or neurosis? Readers who follow this drama to its surprising climax are likely to agree with David Lodge, who argues, in his introduction, that the beauty of The Spoils of Poynton lies in its apparently irreducible ambiguity.
Mrs Gereth is convinced that Fleda Vetch would make the perfect daughter-in-law. Only the dreamy, highly-strung young woman can genuinely appreciate, and perhaps eventually share, Mrs Gereth's passion for her 'things' - the antique treasures she has amassed at Poynton Park in the south of England. Owen Gereth, however, has inconveniently become engaged to the uncultured Mona Brigstock. As a dramatic family quarrel unfolds, the hesitating Fleda is drawn in, yet she remains reluctant to captivate Owen, who seems as attracted to her as she is to him. Is she motivated by scruple or fear? In The Spoils of Poynton (1897), Henry James created a work of exquisite ambiguity in his depiction of three women fighting for the allegiance of one weak-willed man.
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Henry James (1843-1916), born in New York City, was the son of noted religious philosopher Henry James, Sr., and brother of eminent psychologist and philosopher William James. He spent his early life in America and studied in Geneva, London and Paris during his adolescence to gain the worldly experience so prized by his father. He lived in Newport, went briefly to Harvard Law School, and in 1864 began to contribute both criticism and tales to magazines.
In 1869, and then in 1872-74, he paid visits to Europe and began his first novel, Roderick Hudson. Late in 1875 he settled in Paris, where he met Turgenev, Flaubert, and Zola, and wrote The American (1877). In December 1876 he moved to London, where two years later he achieved international fame with Daisy Miller. Other famous works include Washington Square (1880), The Portrait of a Lady (1881), The Princess Casamassima(1886), The Aspern Papers (1888), The Turn of the Screw (1898), and three large novels of the new century,The Wings of the Dove (1902), The Ambassadors (1903) and The Golden Bowl (1904). In 1905 he revisited the United States and wrote The American Scene (1907).
During his career he also wrote many works of criticism and travel. Although old and ailing, he threw himself into war work in 1914, and in 1915, a few months before his death, he became a British subject. In 1916 King George V conferred the Order of Merit on him. He died in London in February 1916.
David Lodge is the author of twelve novels and a novella, including the Booker Prize finalists Small World andNice Work. He is also the author of many works of literary criticism, including The Art of Fiction andConsciousness and the Novel.