Date of Award

Fall 12-15-2010

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Marilynn Richtarik

Second Advisor

LeeAnne Richardson

Third Advisor

Ian Almond


This Master’s Thesis seeks to explain the process of initiation undergone by Henry James’s characters. Characters are chosen for initiation into forbidden knowledge, and, like the Biblical Adam and Eve, are exiled as a result. Though initiation is erotic, it is not sexual, and society falsely perceives a sexually charged relationship between the initiator and the initiate, also called the complementary pair. The initiate faces exile and death because of his forbidden knowledge. He no longer has a place in his society, which leads to his social death and eventually physical death. James’s reader is initiated along with the characters, becoming a critical reader who no longer sees reading as a passive activity but brings his own judgment to the text. The Jamesian Reader does not face the same fate as the initiate, but he does change substantively as a result of his new perspective on the text.