Henry James' The Aspern Papers

1035 Words 5 Pages
Henry James' The Aspern Papers

The Aspern Papers by Henry James illustrates a classic opposition throughout the story: the underestimation of the old by the young. The narrator, Aspern’s publisher, sets himself to the task of retrieving several mysterious “papers” from a former lover of his idol, and goes in with the easy confidence of a young man who never dreams that anyone, much less an elderly lady, could be not one, but in fact several, steps ahead of him at all times in his hunt for literary gold. The relationship between Miss Bordereau and the narrator is that of the cat and the mouse, with the narrator believing he is the cat, and Miss Bordereau knowing that she has the upper hand by the simple fact of possession. The narrator
…show more content…
I think that if Miss Bordereau had thought it would get rid of him, she would have told him directly that, yes, she had the papers, and no, she had no intention of giving them up. However, because their relationship actually began with Miss Tina’s terse reply to the narrator’s associate, telling him that under no circumstances were the two Bordereau’s interested in any nonsense as frivolous as a dead author’s romantic entanglements. This response comes back to haunt the narrator as he buries himself deeper and deeper in intrigue to keep his true identity a “secret” from Miss Bordereau. When they converse, the narrator is on his toes and very aware of the effect of every word, while Miss Bordereau throws out tidbits to entice him into an indiscreet comment or demand for the papers. For example, she deliberately declines to give him a receipt for his rent payment, prompting the narrator to conclude “She had given me a part of her house, but she wouldn’t add to that so much as a morsel of paper with her name on it” (James, 27). While she is ostensibly neglecting only a nicety of business, in truth it seems she is teasing him, saying that if she will not even give him her signature on a receipt, there is nothing on earth that might compel her to part with the Aspern papers.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the competitive relationship between Aspern’s publisher and Miss Bordereau is the inclusion of a

More about Henry James' The Aspern Papers

Open Document