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Howells' "Editha" and James' Criticism

Author and critic Henry James commented on W.D. Howells' writing in the June 19, 1886 issue of Harper's Weekly:

"He is animated by a love of the common, the immediate, the familiar and vulgar elements of life, and holds that in proportion as we move into the rare and strange we become vague and arbitrary; that truth of representation, in a word, can be achieved only so long as it is in our power to test and measure it....He adores the real, the natural, the colloquial, the moderate, the optimistic, the domestic, and the democratic; looking askance at exceptions and perversities and superiorities, at surprising and incongruous phenomena in general....Mr. Howells hates an artificial fable and a denouement that is pressed into the service; he likes things to occur as they occur in life" (394-5).

Based on your reading of Howells' "Editha," do you agree with James' criticism? Cite two examples from the story to support your opinion.

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Based on my own reading of Howells' "Editha," I tend to strongly agree with James that Howell definitely articulates his affinity for the 'common,' in this piece as we see the couple's dynamics and war issue unfold, but also the 'familiar and vulgar elements of life,' especially through Editha's fiesty character. ...

Solution Summary

This post offers brief examples of Howells' Editha in terms of James' criticism to Howells' style and authorial intentions.