This essay will be using the liberal humanist approach to literary criticism when considering Paste by Henry James. Thus nothing will be considered other than the text as it appears on the page. F.R Leavis remarks upon the importance of this in The Common Pursuit:
the fashionable admirers of James, who, indeed, assumed them to be the supreme expression of his genius, but seem quite incapable of suggesting either any intelligible grounds for the assumption or any clear idea of the kind of thing we are supposed to be admiring.
(Leavis 1972, 223)
Leavis reminds us that a text only exists within itself and should not be judged in view of anything else, thus we can draw our own conclusions free of the strictures of precedent. It will be judged according to its universal significance being as it is the nature of the human condition transcending time. Thus I feel it relevant to bring up early on the omission or avoidance of relating Paste to other texts or external sources as a good literary text contains its own meaning within itself.
Whether or not James undertakes this text with a predetermined agenda will also be scrutinised in regards to the text's sincerity to human nature and experience.
Henry James' paste tells us much about the human condition and the tendencies of man. The first and most overtly depicted tendency of man is the concept of honour. One can perhaps extend that to the more localized theme of sexual honour regarding women:
"Oh some of the nobodies have the biggest. But mamma was n't of that sort."
"A nobody?" Charlotte risked.
"Not a nobody to whom somebody- well not a nobody with diamonds. It is n't all worth, this trash, five pounds."
(James 1909, 2)
James shows us the...