Maggie’s Deafening Silence: Femininity as a Masquerade in Henry James’ The Golden Bowl

Ali Taghizadeh & Forough Emam

English Department, Faculty of Arts, Razi University, Kermanshah, the Islamic Republic of Iran. Email:

Volume 10, Number 2, 2018 I Full Text PDF

DOI: 10.21659/rupkatha.v10n2.05

Received November 08, 2017; Revised February 06, 2018; Accepted February 15, 2018; Published May 06,  2018.


In Henry James’s The Golden Bowl, although Maggie Verver is in love with her husband, her silence, regarding his affair, is quite enigmatic. However, in the theory of masquerade, which Joan Riviere proposed in a 1929 seminal essay, this idea was deconstructed. According to the theory of masquerade, women submit to the social codes by wearing a mask of womanliness while at the same time surreptitiously following their own phallic desires. Therefore, even their typically virtuous act of silence can be understood as a womanly disguise which is inherently a masquerade. This paper aims to analyze Maggie’s silence, despite the infidelity and betrayal shown to her by her friend and husband, in order to demonstrate how, according to Riviere, her silence and quietness are not signs of victimhood in the patriarchal society but only tactics which she consciously uses to empower herself and achieve what she wants by the end of the novel. In light of the theories of Joan Riviere, this paper intends to illustrate how (in the context of James’s narrative strategies) Maggie comes to empower herself without radically intimidating the value structure of the Jamesian patriarchal society and by the use of silence as a mask of womanliness.

Keywords: Joan Riviere, Masquerade, Henry James, The Golden Bowl

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