The Narrative Technique in The Ambassadors

Henry James's craftsmanship lies in his narrative technique in the novel The Ambassadors. He does not narrate the whole novel from single narrative technique. Complex form, diplomatic sentences, restricted point of view, dramatic dimension, use of dialogue and description in complex form, division of the book, juxtaposition, etc. are some of the important features of James's narrative technique in the novel.

Henry James (1843-1916)

The very first narrative technique of James is the division of the whole novel into twelve books by giving complete artistic feature to each book. On the one hand each book consists complete artistic feature in itself on the other hand each part of the novel have an integral relationship with the holistic formation of the novel. So it is one of the most important aspects of his narrative technique. In the same way James decorates his craftsmanship with another feature which is deliberately difficult. He writes in imbedded sentences. His choosing sentences technique is not so simple while narrating the novel.

He uses long, complex, imbedded sentences white narrating. He has chosen the restricted point of view. Readers are invited to see through the eye of Lambert Strether. Lambert Strether is a central intelligence. There is only one window to watch the universe of other characters. The window is the perspective of Lambert Strether. The choice of restricted point of view is one of the most frequently used stylistic devices.

The subjective inner drama is another style James has chosen. By the subjective inner drama we mean that the novel is essentially the record of Strether's inner life. In point of fact the novel records Lambert Strether's thought, feelings and response. On reading the novel the reader knows about Strether's conformation with his own inner self. The most important thing in this novel is Strether's struggle with self and finally his reluctant acceptance of his fragmented self. The novel is primarily concerned with change in Strether's understanding about the illusion of his core self. That is why the novel is called the subjective inner drama. James's style of giving expression to Strether's chaotic and disordered thoughts and feeling reminds us that James is the first user of the less developed form of the technique of the stream of consciousness. But this style of James is not a stream of consciousness technique. His style suggests a foreshadowing of that technique.

The next highly prominent style of James is the use of dialogue and description. He has spent a great deal of time in describing. By describing scenes vividly James locates his central character. His central character reacts to the scenic progression. He repeatedly makes use of Dialogic form. James organized the dialogues between major characters. Through the medium of this dialogue James comment upon the atmosphere and the situation of the novel. In general his dialogues are more complex and somewhat involved. These dialogues are not usually very individual from a standpoint of fiction. Dialogues of James are concerned with his character's meaning than their words.

James always writes with a painter's sense. Many chapters in his The Ambassadors are like scenes in a play where the stage is set and the characters moved on and off. The substance of these scenes is always recorded through Strether's conscious. James renders set sense as if they were paintings come alive.

The technique of juxtaposition is used. To dramatize the problems of American expatriates in Paris, Henry James adopted this technique. By use of this technique Henry James succeeded in pinpointing the imitations of Parisians aesthetic culture. By the same token the novelist felt at home in getting accustomed to one's own culture however less advanced it might. This technique helped Henry James to foreground the dominated theme of the continental culture versus the ill- bred mercantile culture of America.

The technique of paradox is another technique which dubbed crucial contribution to the character portrayal of Lambert Strether. He is portrayed as a man who is capable of great achievement in his life. His hasty surrender to the hypnotic Parisian life, his failure to understand the hints of virtuous attachment and his idealization of Madame De Vionnet exposes his imbedded weakness in his self. He seems as a man capable of a great vision of life. But, he happens to make silly errors without serious thoughts. It seems as a mature man with golden vision Lambert Strether's stance paradoxical.

To cut the matter short, his style is an elaborated style, which is highly colored. In this way, James narrative technique has regarded him one of the artistic experts in the novel The Ambassadors. His narrative technique is very rich. Complex formulation, very skillful division of the book, using dramatic description and dialogue, compressed sentence structure all these techniques are objectives to fulfill James narrative technique.