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What Maisie Knew’deki Farklı Algılama Alanları

Author(s): Özlem ÖZEN

Journal: Selcuk Universitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitusu Dergisi
ISSN 1302-1796

Issue: 25;
Start page: 203;
Date: 2011;
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Keywords: Henry James | What Maisie Knew | modernism

Modernism embraces the changes in modern life that seem radically different from traditional life -- more scientific, faster,more technological, and more mechanized. In modernism, order, sequence and unity in works of art might be considered onlyexpressions of a desire for coherence rather than actual reflections of reality. The large cultural movement of modernism,emerging in Europe and the United States in the early years of the 20th century, manifests a sense of modern life through art andliterature which is distinct from the past, as well as from Western civilization's classical traditions. Generalization, high-flownwriting and abstraction might hide rather than convey the real. In this sense, the form of a modernist story, with its beginnings,complications, and resolutions might be artifice imposed upon fragmentation of experience –a construction out of fragments. Inother words, modernist work is notable for what it omits-–the explanations, interpretations, connections, and summaries. Oftenthe intention of writers in the Modern period is to change the way readers see the world and to change our understanding of whatlanguage is and does.Modernism tries to portray the impressions events make on characters, emphasizing the role of individual perception andexploring the nature of individual mind. How and when and where, however, were just what Maisie was not to know is themodernist aspect of the novel implied by James. The novel is a perfect portrayal of the protagonist who sees much more than sheat first understands, because she is portrayed as a child who has many more perceptions than she has terms to express them.Henry James’s What Maisie Knew examines the young protagonist Maisie’s world which is constructed by fragments ofdifferent realities of the adults around her. This paper aims at discussing some discourses in Maisie’s world through the approachof critical linguistics looking at the relationship between the subject (the power of one participant in the action) and the object(the affected participant by the action)—to arrive at a result: Her parents’ (mostly her own mother’s) subjectivity and selfishnesscauses disillusionment in Maisie’s perception of reality. Maisie manages to construct her own version of reality in spite of thevarious fragmented experiences she goes through. This will also shed light to the evaluation of this novel as a modernist text.What Maisie knows is bits and pieces from everything around her. She is the central object around whom everything revolves.She gathers the pieces of this puzzle of happenings in order to make meaning. In this way, she seeks order among the fragmentsof others’ realities. For instance, when she realizes that the Captain is attracted towards her mother in chapter 17, she wants himto be with her mother out of her pity and love towards her mother. In her perception, the Captain is drawn as a “knight inshining armour.” As a matter of fact, Maisie approaches him as an individual and recognizes the general forms of adult behaviorwithout understanding the appropriate content. Although Maisie can interpret what is happening around her, there are thingsbeyond her knowledge.In her struggle for bringing people together she, actually, is looking for meaning and order in her world full of fragments thatstem from selfishness and unreliable subjectivity. This is a world in which she is not able to sense what she observes as love orhate. However, the truth in Maisie’s world does not seem to have consistency when her mother scorns her about Maisie’sinterpretation of the Captain. She naively states that she thought her mother liked him. This is the only truth Maisie can perceive,which clashes with that of her mother, who reacts angrily to Maisie’s allusion to her relationship with the Captain. Her motherclaims that Maisie has become “… a dreadful dismal deplorable little thing…”).Moreover, Maisie’s mother Ida asserts her subjective reality. Furthermore, she makes Maisie another causer of his action:“You have gone over to him, you have given yourself up to side against me and hate me” (83). Ida has no affection for Maisie anduses her to punish her father. In another sense, attempting to play the loving mother, Ida causes the disillusionment in Maise’sperception of reality. Through constructing her own reality based on self absorption, Ida tries to demonstrate that Maisie’s fatheris the only cause of this hate between them. In her first sentence, Ida relates, Maisie’s father wishes Maisie’s death; however shechanges her statement (her tongue slips) to “his wishing that I’m dead.” She is, obviously, in a great effort to prove that she is made an object by the subjectivity of her husband, exploiting the emotions of her own daughter. Furthermore, she constructsMaisie as the agent of the trouble between her husband and herself.Like Ida Farange, Mrs. Beale (Maisie’s step-mother) reverses the truth of things when she calls Maisie “little hypocrite” andtalks about the time she has been a slave to gain Maisie’s love. With the word “slave” she constructs herself as an object who isdeprived of love. Maisie’s first impressions on Mrs. Beale as her father’s second wife are that she really struck her as a newacquaintance and a rich strong expressive affection that in short pounced upon her. For instance, Mrs.Overmore’s title changesinto Mrs. Beale; so she declares that she becomes Maisie’s mother. Mrs. Beale’s subjectivity is apparent when she first asserts herpower: “He is my husband; if you please, and I am his little wife. So now we’ll see who your little mother is!” (55). She impliesthat being her mother, she has a right to own Maisie as well as to educate her. The change of title and role from Maisie’sgoverness to Maisie’s mother leads to a riddle of realities in Maisie’s vision—a distorted vision which has no stability: “If she washer father’s wife, she was not her own governess” (109). Rather than conveying actual reflections in her world, she tries to expressa desire for being the new mother of Maisie.Maisie’s both female parents establish their subjectivity that is based on selfishness. Through her observation of love, Maisieis disillusioned because she hears Mrs. Beale calling herself “an abominable little horror.” This is the difference between theknowledge conveyed by statements and her vision of reality that leads Maisie into confusion. From a modernist sense, Maisie hasmany more perceptions than she has terms to translate them; so actually the adult world is seen but not completely understood orgiven meaning. Thus, these naïve perception of images do not function completely, after Maisie faces different realms offragmented realities. (This is once implied by her father’s saying to her, “You have become a monster”)With her newly acquired knowledge, Maisie knows how to make a distinction between good and bad. From another aspect,we see the expression of the inner vision, the inner emotion, or the inner reality in Maisie’s character. In her judgment, there ismore intuition than reason, apparent in her silence. Just like the verbal attacks of her parents, the unspoken language around herteaches Maisie. In other words, Maisie, asserts her own subjectivity—even implicitly—seeing the true nature of her step-father: aman’s dependence upon women is a weakness that makes Maisie disillusioned.As a result, what Maisie knows is, at the start, different from the knowledge adults possess. Maisie’s look at the world laterbecomes fragmented which is drawn from different experiences and realities: she becomes, in a way, the affected participant ofthe relationships among the adults around her. Thus , the incongruity between language and reality in her world is the outcomeof the fragmented realities. However, she encounters with an experience that shows how she is tempted to consent the divorce oflanguage and reality—-what makes us read the novel from a modernist sense. She, though used by her parents to win power,realizes that language does not speak the truth. She, therefore, seeks order among these fragmented realities and manages toestablish her own perception of reality.
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