The Great Good Place Style and Technique

Henry James

Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Through the device of the dream story, James is able to render the theme of consciousness more directly than he normally does. He dispenses with the exigencies of plot, characterization, and the defining details necessary for verisimilitude. Within the dream, George Dane is nothing but consciousness. He is what he is aware of being. He encounters nothing but himself in the process of becoming aware of himself. Even those shadowy figures, the Brothers, are merely projections of his desire to communicate with those aspects of himself that validate his work as an author and his vision of life. There is no boundary between inner life and outer world. Within some vaguely defined limits, Dane’s consciousness is free to reconstruct itself and the world at the same time, and James is free to dramatize this process. Of “The Great Good Place,” James himself wrote that “any gloss or comment would be a tactless challenge.” The unity of story and theme validates his assertion.