GOLDEN BOWL, a novel by Henry James, published in 1904. Amerigo, a charming, amoral Italian prince, marries Maggie Verver, a rich American. Amerigo had been in love with Charlotte Stant, a beautiful Italian-born American, but he was too poor to marry her. Charlotte, once a schoolmate of Maggie’s, shops with Amerigo for her wedding gift to Maggie. She finds and rejects an exquisite gilded crystal bowl; with its slight flaw, the bowl becomes a symbol of the protagonists’ own deficiencies and the dangers of an aesthetic approach to life.
Maggie’s father, Adam Verver, to whom she is very close, collects art. At first Amerigo seerns to them to be nıerely another beautiful object. When Mr. Verver and Charlotte marry, she and Amerigo are thrown together, and Maggie learns of their former relationship. To save her marriage, Maggie indirectly persuades her father to take his bride to America, and thus, enabled to devote herself to Amerigo, wins his love and esteem.
In much of the novel, father and daughter seem naive, culture-hungry Americans; Charlotte and Amerigo seem decadent. Through his subtle symbolism, James shows the complex motives of his characters and the moral implications of their behavior, with the result that The Golden Bowl is a supreme artistic achievement.