Readers traditionally associate heroism with risk and confidence in one's abilities. Yet within the realist tradition, Henry James creates a portrait of an unconfident heroine. The Golden Bowl's Maggie Verver demonstrates she has the ability to become an effective actor, and she can be read as a special case within the underdog character type. Despite being caught in a deception plot, she surprises readers with the pleasure of a “win” by developing a specific know-how that relies on reading temporal tensions. The article uses theoretical work on temporality by Paul Ricoeur, Jacques Lacan, and Alain Badiou to explore how Maggie's confidence and courage emerge from the depths of anxiety and how this process allows James to create a narrative in which the reader learns to gauge and appreciate human action in process.

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