Relation in the Aspern Papers

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In actual life, Henry James was said to be a solitary man, even though he had many friends. He was reserved and kept distance from people, which must be the reason why the theme of “relation” is so present in James’ work. When it comes to defining “relation” one can say that it nearly always involves a connection between two people (or groups of people), two things, two concepts, etc. “Relation” could easily be the one single most important theme of The Aspern Papers, that is, if we consider a comprehensive definition of the word. Henry James deliberately uses “relation” at virtually every level. When reading the word “relation”, what possibly first comes up to one’s mind is the relation two people can have with each other. But delving deeper, one notices it can also mean the act of relating, telling a story. This is actually what I will try to develop. How does Henry James manage to use the simple theme of relation throughout his novella all the while meaning many different things? This is not an extensive explanation of all the different meanings the author uses but rather a sample. In The Aspern Papers, it seems as though “relation” revolves around the narrator himself. He is in relation to several things or people, such as the readers, Jeffrey Aspern and Tina.

The relation a narrator makes of a story has to be made so as to grasp its audience in its claws in order for the actual audience not to get away. In the story of The Aspern Papers, Henry James creates an interesting main protagonist (whose name we are never given). The latter is a post-diegetic narrator as well as a protagonist belonging to the diegesis. This duplicity accounts for the ambiguity of the “I’s” found in the story. But let us first concentrate on the post-diegetic narrator. As we have said earlier on, a narrator will always try to tell his story in a way to draw the readers’ attention and make them relate (no pun intended) to the main...
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