Recent criticism of Henry James's The Bostonians (1885) tends to vindicate the plan of Olive Chancellor to recruit the young Verena Tarrant to the cause of radical feminism. This essay argues that such an interpretation can be made only at the cost of ignoring the novel's plea for recognizing the validity of the subject's own plan for himself or herself, a recognition that Olive's intentions regarding Verena violate. The essay makes use of an allusion in James's novel to Charles Kingsley's Hypatia (1853) that has been over-looked by previous critics. Exploring the relation between James's and Kingsley's novels permits us to understand that The Bostonians is a novel about sacrifice-the dedication of individuals to causes not their own and against their will. James ultimately affirms a dialogical view of human existence in which each individual makes an implicit demand to be included as an equal partner in a reciprocal conversation about life. The highest form of this conversation is love.
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