Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

James is justly famous for his innovations in fictional style and technique, but both these aspects of his work make his writing difficult for the beginning reader. This is particularly true if the work, like “Europe,” is written in the “late style,” which he developed during the final phase of his writing career. His long and complex sentences contain many embedded clauses and frequently use a periodic structure that delays meaning until the end of the sentence. Such a style provides a challenge for the reader, who also must deal with the ironic, detached tone of many of his narrators.

The narrator of “Europe” is an excellent example of James’s style. He is clearly a cultivated, fastidious, and perceptive man; his choice of language and attitude toward the tale he relates are ironic and distanced. He is not an actual part of the story, a fact that enables him to maintain his distance at all times. Indeed, much of the story is told to him by his sister-in-law, a device that creates another barrier between him and the Rimmles and helps to keep the reader from becoming emotionally involved in the story. James enjoys using narrators who have only partial knowledge of the story they tell, limiting the reader to the narrator’s perspective and filtering all aspects of the story through the narrator’s consciousness. The result is that the narrator’s version of the tale becomes as important as the actual persons and events that are described....

(The entire section is 459 words.)