The Real Thing Analysis

Style and Technique (Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Published a few years before the great novels of James’s so-called late style, characterized by rhetorical complexity, “The Real Thing” is interesting as an example of its author’s successful use of the “popular” style to convey the more serious meanings already discussed.

The story moves quickly, gracefully, with an elegant, precise prose recalling the sparkle of James’s earlier works such as Daisy Miller (1879) and The Portrait of a Lady (1881). The first-person narration is successful in establishing a central point of view—James’s trademark—while maintaining the lively, spontaneous tone. Additionally, by allowing the artist to speak for himself, James brings his dilemma into sharper focus, making it a personal drama rather than a dry monologue or a mere critique of aesthetic theory disguised as a story. The artist’s personality is keenly felt—his wit, his compassion, even his delusion of someday capturing the real thing.

Finally, and characteristically, the story is marked by an intriguing use of names, an almost Dickensian exuberance and unabashed simplicity. The name “Monarch” is obviously suggestive. So, too, is the grossly discordant “Churm” and the shallow flashiness of “Oronte.” The name of the artist’s friend, Claude Rivet, suggests the iron-bound commercialism by which the Monarchs are judged. Even the title of the novel for which the artist is providing illustrations, Rutland Ramsey, suggests a mild parody of James’s own first novel of artists in Rome, Roderick Hudson (1876).

The Real Thing Bibliography (Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Anesko, Michael. “Friction with the Market”: Henry James and the Profession of Authorship. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986.

Bloom, Harold, ed. Henry James. New York: Chelsea House, 1987.

Dewey, Joseph, and Brooke Horvath, eds.“The Finer Thread, the Tighter Weave”: Essays on the Short Fiction of Henry James. West Lafayette, Ind.: Purdue University Press, 2001.

Edel, Leon. Henry James: A Life. Rev. ed. New York: Harper & Row, 1985.

Graham, Kenneth. Henry James, a Literary Life. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1996.

Habegger, Alfred. Henry James and the “Woman Business.” New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989.

Harden, Edgard F. A Henry James Chronology. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.

Hocks, Richard A. Henry James: A Study of the Short Fiction. Boston: Twayne, 1990.

Kaplan, Fred. Henry James: The Imagination of Genius. New York: William Morrow, 1992.

Lustig, T. J. Henry James and the Ghostly. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

Martin, W. R., and Warren U. Ober. Henry James’s Apprenticeship: The Tales, 1864-1882. Toronto: P. D. Meany, 1994.

Nettels, Elsa. Language and Gender in American Fiction: Howells, James, Wharton, and Cather. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1997.

Novick, Sheldon M. Henry James: The Young Master. New York: Random House, 1996.

Pollak, Vivian R., ed. New Essays on “Daisy Miller” and “The Turn of the Screw.” Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

Rawlings, Peter. Henry James and the Abuse of the Past. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.

Tambling, Jeremy. Henry James. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000.