“He uttered a low moan as he breathed the chill of this dark void, so desperately it seemed to represent the completion of a sinister process. The tears filled his mild eyes; something precious had passed away.”
James, Henry. “The Middle Years”. Henry James: Complete Stories: 1829-1898, ed. John Hollander and David Bromwich, The Library of America, 1996, 337
I find the sense of tragic acceptance of this passage particularly interesting because of the way Dencombe’s grieving actions correlate with the closure he is so desperately seeking and the way that the process is described by the narrator as “sinister.” The syntax of the passage reveals his emotions by initially stating how he “uttered a low moan,” almost a sorrowful sigh, and that this represents the acceptance of this loss, more so how desperate he is to have closure. It then escalates to tears when further realization reaches him. Observing Dencombe, we too, experience this deep whirlpool and rush of emotions and in a sense, grieve with him. We are able to also observe this inner battle he is experiencing. This passage is multifaceted in a sense that emotions such as desperation and acceptance are co-existing but are almost at battle with one another.
“He thought of the fairy-tales of science and charmed himself into forgetting that he looked for a magic that was not of this world.”
Henry James, “The Middle Years.” Henry James: Complete Stories 1892-1898, ed. John Hollander and David Bromwich (New York: The Library of America, 1996), 348-349.
Dencombe expresses a strong desire for a cure of the illness that has affected him; for Doctor Hugh to find one with the new knowledge of the younger generation. Dencombe observes that such a cure would be a miracle. Is this him starting to come to terms with the fact that the life he has lived has been his one, and only, chance?
“That identity was ineffaceable now, and all the more that he was disappointed, disgusted. He had been rash, been stupid, had gone out too soon, stayed out too long.”
Henry James, “The Middle Years.” Henry James: Complete Stories 1892-1898, ed. John Hollander and David Bromwich (New York: The Library of America, 1996), pg 345
Why is the “identity” something that he’s so worried about being memorized/not forgotten? What caused this to happen? Why is it a problem that he stayed out too long?
“He was tired enough when he reached it, and for a moment he was disappointed; he was better, of course, but better, after all, than what? He should never again, as at one or two great moments of the past, be better than himself.”
Henry James, The Middle Years, (Henry James: Complete Stories 1892-1898, 335-55).
Why is he, Dencombe, tired and disappointed? Was he injured in some way and why does he believe he will never be the better version of himself in the past?