Reconstructing the Bostonians

The Bostonians: Directed by James Ivory; Screenplay by Ruth Prawer Ghabvala; Merchant-Ivory Production.

A popular film that is more than chewing gum for the mind is a rare treat, and a novel of power and poignancy, translated into a well-created film, is sheer bliss. The Bostonians is a love story about an archaic Southern man who falls in love with a beautiful feminist preacher who is simultaneously adored by her mentor, a rigid Back Bay feminist. It is no coincidence that Henry James selected a Southerner as his hero. For it is in this figure that James can portray the sensibilities of a feudal culture that still values romance and the felicities of courtship. In contrast stands the Massachusetts revolutionist whose cause is rooted only in modernism.

James offered a counterrevolutionary, commonsense plea for romance rather than war between the sexes and for the reassertion of individual will over redemptive causes. Although James recognized full well the lengths feminists would eventually reach in ventilating their ideological fervor, he was fur more interested in the degradation of the human spirit through the revolutionary deed.

James was ahead of his time in diagnosing the ills of a nation of long-haired men and short-haired women." The older feminist who acts as the "teacher" will go to any extreme to maneuver her naive soulmate ever more deeply into the pit of outrage....

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