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The Real Thing

3.55  ·  Rating details ·  382 Ratings  ·  39 Reviews
Work by the prolific American-born author and literary critic of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He spent much of his life in Europe and became a British subject shortly before his death. He is primarily known for novels, novellas and short stories based on themes of consciousness and morality.
Paperback, 48 pages
Published May 4th 2007 by Dodo Press (first published 1892)
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The depressing tale of a husband and wife, former artist models, past their prime but still believing they are the "real thing" as models go, and an artist who tries to use them as sitters, but realizes it's a lost cause. James excellent writing and character development saves the day for this otherwise bleak story. 3.5 stars
Feb 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story seemed a bit muddled in the writing style, but the main gist got though.

If you like James's ghost stories this definately the read for you despite the muddled nature of the story.
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
A down-and-out middle-aged couple, still proud of their youthful accomplishments as models, carrying themselves with an accustomed regal bearing, comes to the studio of a portrait-maker looking for a job.

I've never seen characters like them so brilliantly sketched in a short story of only twenty or so pages before. By the time it was winding up, I was completely pulled in, amazed that an immense pity had welled up from deep inside me for these luckless husband and wife.
Jan 07, 2016 rated it liked it
not sure how useful of a rating this is considering henry james could literally write about trash blowing in the wind and i would give it three stars. i liked the story a lot but found it difficult to pull together what it was trying to communicate when i was finished. but i got there eventually so its chill
May 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Henry James's "The Real Thing" seems to see through social artifice, or at least, to see that appearances may not suit one's idea of what appearances should be. The story concerns people's perceptions, in a shallow way, but deeply, given the context. A well written piece.
Oct 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I read this because my son has to read it for his Language Arts through American Literature class. I don't think he is going to like it but I sure did. Can't wait to discuss it with him and see what his impression is.
Jeanne McDonald
Sep 14, 2016 rated it liked it
A provocative piece of work, it reflects on the sacrifice made by the subject, but also by the artist when producing art.
Fae Kelley
Aug 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 16, 2015 rated it liked it
I have mixed feelings about this story. I can't decide if I liked it or not. The story didn't feel like it had a solid path which was frustrating. However, I really enjoyed the idea of reality versus appearance.

Henry James spends a substantial amount of the text discussing the appearance of the people in the story and how that is juxtaposed to the reality of their situations. The premise of the story revolves around the fact that what is seen is not always the case and that a perfect specimen is
Nov 10, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The writing style of Henry James - in regard to his composition of text, and not considering his psychological character development - as famous as it is, which is not only one of the hallmarks of his career, but also one of the two reasons that have made him, perhaps quite deservedly, be dubbed as 'The Master', is in one sense, the best style of writing that I have ever seen in any writer, but also, in another sense, perhaps the worst. The extreme style, composed of long sentences within senten ...more
Seriah Getty
Oct 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
I was a assigned to read this book for my literature course this year, and I am very glad I did! This was not a very exciting book, nor even a very heart-warming one. It is a sort of niggling, thought-provoking book. One that made you think, really truly hard, about the problems facing the characters in the story.
When a genteel couple go to hire themselves out as models for an illustrator, he (the illustrator) is torn between having the "Real thing," or "simply models." The problem is that he
Marc Gerstein
Aug 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classics
The Monarchs, a genteel older coupe who have fallen on hard times, approach an artists who illustrates books (as so many did in James’ time) seeking employment as models. Their pitch: Unlike many others who pose for a living, they, the Monarchs, are “the real thing.” And indeed they are. But is that enough. They are the real thing, but what sort of thing is that and who cares about it. James is by no means the first or last to take swipes at the outlived-their-usefullness aristocracy (the Mediev ...more
Daniel Apatiga
Feb 03, 2014 rated it liked it
I thought it did a good job describing a stereotypical married couple, idealized by society since the man is an army major and the woman a model, as being, alas, dumb and uninteresting as subjects on a canvas, from the perspective of a painter artist. Not all are as incoherent and memorable as the ones described in this short story. I wasn't sure, after reading it, whether I thought the narrator's view that they were pretty but they had caused him permanent harm financially was actually the esse ...more
Alois Wittwer
Mar 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
The real thing or not, that's the question. The story is about a couple who pose as models and went to an illustrator seeking to work as sitters for his sketches, but with attempt after another the illustrator never succeeded to sketch the real thing, the thing that would meet his expectations, which eventually led him to dismiss them and replace them with another sitters emphasizing that the real thing could never be realized on account of that the couple's heyday of modelling is over.

Janelle Heirendt
Oct 21, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Artists and lovers of short stories.
Recommended to Janelle by: Norton Anthology
This is an interesting study in class "demotion." It's actually quite sad -- Mr. and Mrs. Major's poverty makes them willing to eat their pride and work as servants, but their social background makes the situation too socially awkward for them to be hired on. They're so earnest and humble (despite some "inborn" classism), but James also makes their "rejection" very understandable. So the tension builds as you grow in pity and respect for the Majors while readily identifying with the main charact ...more
Miguel Angel
4.2/5. I really enjoyed this tale. An unnamed artist hires a degrading couple as models for a book he is providing the art for. However, they claim to already be "The Real Thing" and leave very little for the imagination. Fascinating conversation in class with this one, where I added my two cents stating that a theme throughout the story was a prism vs. a mirror, or clay vs. cement.
Douglas Dalrymple
Mar 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Another comic James story, reminiscent in certain respects of The Liar, and just as good. Here we have two impeccably presentable gentlefolk fallen on difficult financial circumstances, intent on hiring themselves out as artists’ models. The unexpected twist of pathos at the end is especially compelling.

“She was the real thing, but always the same thing.”
Marts  (Thinker)
Jun 23, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: classics
Hmmm... The narrator, an illustrator / painter, hires a couple as models for his work. Now this couple, the Monarchs, have lost alot of their money and really need some sort of work, the problem is that modelling just isn't for them...
May 11, 2011 rated it liked it
read for my short story class. I took a Henry James class in college and remember thinking his stories were boring. Perhaps I am more mature now, or perhaps this story was better than the ones I had read. I really enjoyed it!
Zoe Tribley
Aug 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This story is real
(ha ha)
but seriously...
read it
Carielyn Mills
May 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
it's like 'american psycho' but with a happy ending (and no gore)
Jan 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
my favorite of his 'ghost tales'
Aug 12, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: read-in-school
It's probably a combination of 1) having read this book as a REQUIREMENT in SCHOOL, and 2) not being MATURE enough to CHOOSE to GET IT.
But I didn't like this short story.
Aug 27, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
I'm sorry to say it but Henry James is just too purple prose-ish for me.
Giulia Di Marco
Oct 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
"The real thing could be so much less precious than the unreal."
At the end I cried all of my tears.
Nicole :)
Aug 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: wishlist, re-reading
1. Aug 19th 2012
2. Jul 26th 2016
Nov 19, 2010 rated it it was ok
Available at LibriVox.
Austin Wright
Oct 28, 2014 rated it did not like it
Boring and stupid.
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Henry James, OM, son of theologian Henry James Sr., brother of the philosopher and psychologist William James and diarist Alice James, was an American-born author, one of the founders and leaders of a school of realism in fiction. He spent much of his life in England and became a British subject shortly before his death. He is primarily known for a series of major novels in which he portrayed the ...more
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