The Golden Bowl is a novel by Henry James. Set in England, this complex, intense study of marriage and adultery completes what some critics have called the "major phase" of James' career. The Golden Bowl explores the tangle of interrelationships between a father and daughter and their respective spouses. The novel focuses deeply and almost exclusively on the consciousness of the central characters, with sometimes obsessive detail but also with powerful insight. The title is a quotation from Ecclesiastes 12:6, "…or the golden bowl be broken, …then shall the dust return to the earth as it was".
In the broadest sense of the term, The Golden Bowl is a novel of education. Maggie gradually sheds her childish naivete and grows into a capable woman who saves her marriage by dexterous handling of a potentially explosive situation. She realizes that she can't remain dependent on her father but must accept adult responsibilities in her marriage.
Amerigo is portrayed as a European snob and far from scrupulous. But he comes to respect Maggie as she works to save their marriage. He had previously regarded Maggie and Adam as little more than "good children, bless their hearts, and the children of good children."
It is unclear how much Adam knows of the situation, but he appears wise and understanding of his daughter's plan for the two couples to separate. Charlotte is a dazzlingly beautiful woman, but she may be a little "stupid," as the Prince pronounces in a harsh final judgment. She ultimately appears more bewildered than self-possessed.