This article contains the summary and analysis of Henry James’ spiritual gothic ghost story The Great Good Place (1900).
This article series provides a summary of The Great Good Place, the ending or the twist and a short analysis.
Henry James (1843-1916) was an American Author of literary realism and literary modernism. But he has also written ghost stories, stories of the supernatural and the spiritual. His themes compose romance, the fear of marriage, the doppelgänger motif and of course the supernatural that subtly sneaks into real life, ever posing the question if the paranormal is real or not. Often with an unreliable narrator, told in the first person, the events can be explained either by the existence of a real ghost or something that the mind conjured up. His ghost story genre lies in the genre of Romance, where the magical co-exists with everyday life, which creates an eerie uncanny feeling. His stories are always based in the real world of human action, psychology and morality. It therefore is up to the reader to interpret the story as they wish, which can lead to wonderful lively discussions.
This article contains a story that deals with passion and life.
The Great Good Place (1900)
When George Dane wakes up his study is full of papers, documents, newspapers, telegrams, which he has to answer and on top of that he had invited a young man to breakfast who had send him his book. There’s so much to do and Dane is already tired of it. When the young man calls, he shakes his hand and is transported to another place. He’s with his Brother in a bath and then on a bench and tells him about his morning guest. He tells him that the young man envied him, of what he had accomplished and wanted to be him. Whereupon Dane answers, well, be me then. For he is tired of it himself.
Now transported to The Great Good Place or as his Brother calls it The Great Want Met, he feels very relaxed. Dane stays for three weeks in this ‘resort.’ ‘The mere dream-sweetness of the place was superseded’ it was more and more a world of reason and order, of sensible, visible arrangement. It ceased to be strange – it was high, triumphant clearness.’ He had companions, a great room, books to read, paintings to stare at. ‘And there were all sorts of freedoms – always, for the occasion, the particular right one.’
Then one day something had happened. ‘What had happened was that in tranquil walks and talks the deep spell had worked and he had got his soul again.’ So he soon would be leaving. But he was the happiest of men and laughed the happiest laugh. ‘There, in its place, was life – with all its rage; the vague unrest of the need for action knew it again, the stir of the faulty that had been refreshed and reconsecrated. They seem each, thus confronted, to close their eyes a moment for dizziness; then they were again at peace, and the Brothers confidence rang out. “Oh, we shall meet!”’
Then his Brother’s face changes for another, the face of his servant Brown who wakes him up. Where Dane had sat on the sofa, he was now lying, and it rained, but nothing else had changed. The young man was still sitting at his desk and had done all the work. Dane had been asleep for 8 hours. ‘It was all queer, but all pleasant and all distinct, so distinct that the last words in his ear – the same from both quarters – appeared the effect of a single voice. Dane rose and looked about his room, which seems disencumbered, different, twice as large. It was all right.’
Dane had become tired of his work and duties and needed a rest. When the young man came and wanted to be him, Dane finally felt at ease so he could sleep and find himself a place where his mind could restore and be the better for it. It’s a tale that is even more relevant now, despite that it is written 100 years ago. We all could use a break from time to time, especially a mental break.
Read more about Henry James:
- Henry James: The Turn of the Screw [Summary & Analysis]
- Henry James: The Altar of the Dead [Summary & Analysis]
- Henry James: The Beast in the Jungle [Summary & Analysis]
- Henry James: De Grey A Romance [Summary & Analysis]
- Henry James: The Ghostly Rental [Summary & Analysis]
- Henry James: The Jolly Corner [Summary & Analysis]
- Henry James: The Last of the Valerri [Summary & Analysis]
- Henry James: Owen Wingrave [Summary & Analysis]
- Henry James: The Real Right Thing [Summary & Analysis]
- Henry James: The Romance of a Certain Old Clothes [Summary & Analysis]
- Henry James: Sir Edmund Orme [Summary & Analysis]
- Henry James: The Third Person [Summary & Analysis]
- Henry James: The Way It Came [Summary & Analysis]
- The Turn of the Screw (Henry James) review