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James' Wings of the Dove: Bks 1-4: The Exposition & Beginning of the Complication
Overview of the Development

Essentially the first four books introduce the characters and some of the initial issues driving the story:

  • Kate and Densher are unable to be married because he has no real means of support.
  • Kate is dependent upon Maud for support, and Maud wishes to marry Kate to someone who will advance both Kate and Maud's position.
  • Milly is the last of a line of a wealthy New York family; she is ill, and Susan Stringham has agreed to introduce Milly to cultured, European society.

1.1--the first book is essentially from Kate's perspective. We begin with Lionel's effect upon Kate, the dark, sordidness of his surroundings, and Lionel's complicated stance towards Kate's small inheritance.  We learn of Aunt Maud's offer to take in Kate if she will cut off relations with her family, and we find out that Kate loves Densher.

1.2--We are treated to Kate's view of Maud; we learn of Marion's situation and how she urges Kate to accept Maud's conditions

2.1--We are introduced to Densher's view of the situation, to how Kate and Densher met, Maud's testing and disapproval of Densher because he lacks money or reputation, and more of the effect of Kate's past on her. 

2.2--We are more exposed to the imperious nature of Maud, Densher's sense of how he fails to measure up to her plans, and Densher's trip to America..  We also see Kate and Densher's pledge of love.

3.1--We now shift to Susan Stringham's perspective.  We learn of Milly's riches and beauty, that she is the "final flower" of a certain New York type, and that she is likened to a princess.  Stringham sees her role as bringing culture to such a person.

3.2--We receive the first hint of Milly's illness, which perhaps explains her desire to leave the Alps and go to London to be with people.  Stringham decides to call on an old Swiss school friendship with Maud.

4.1--We find Milly and Susan at Maud's.  We now switch to Milly's perspective.  She conceives of everything as a kind of fairy tale.  This is contrasted with Lord Mark's more pragmatic, cynical view of things.  Milly becomes conscious of her success: she is willing to play up to their expectations for her as an American exotic.

4.2--The way Milly and Susan romanticize the situation is further developed.  Kate in particular is conceived as a British heroine.

4.3--Densher is reintroduced.  We learn that Milly had met him in America, and we receive our first hints that she is attracted to him.  Maud convinces Milly to sound out Kate about the state of Densher's attractions to the later.   Milly's view of Kate begins to be more complicated.

Observations on and Questions about Select Passages

21-22: How does the atmosphere of Lionel's house effect Kate?   How is her beauty contrasted to it?

29b: How does family feeling require one to "use" family assets?

35-36t: How does the material world speak to Kate?  What does this reveal about her?

36b-37, 60: Maud is described as a looming presence, a lioness, Britannia, and a gilded eagle.  What does these metaphors suggest about her and her position?

46-47: What do we learn of Densher's nature and character? How does it contrast with Kate's?

57: How does Lionel's dishonor impact Kate?  How does Kate view her family?  How does this view drive her?

62-63: Maud's large, vulgar, magnificent furnishing reveal her power and character.  What do they suggest?

66: How does Densher understand Maud's response to him?

76, 79-80, 81 (cf. 5-6): What do we learn of Milly's heritage and state?  What is her effect on others?

84-86, 94, 113: Note how Milly is variously described as a princess with her social conditions and privileges.

87b-88: Note how Milly is described like Christ looking at the kingdoms of the earth.  What is James trying to suggest by this?

97, 98b-99: Note how Milly conceives of matters in a fairy tale fashion.

102: According to Lord Mark, Milly is "something to give."

104-105: Milly's growing consciousness of her success and possibilities.

108b-109: Milly willing to live up to others' perceptions of her.   What does this suggest both about how she is conceived and why she does this?

111-112: Kate is conceived as a typical British woman, as well as a fictional heroine with a dark secret.

117: Milly begins to understand Kate's self-serving nature.

120: Milly wants labyrinths. Why?

"All manner of thing shall be well/ When the tongues of flame are in-folded/ Into the crowned knot of fire/ And the fire and the rose are one." -- T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding