The Californian’s Tale

by

Mark Twain

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The narrator first meets Henry when he comes across his well-maintained cottage. Henry is jovial and overflowing with love for his wife, who delicately decorated their cozy cottage retreat, over which he has immense pride. Henry initially appears—to both the narrator and readers—as a lone symbol of human joyfulness in an otherwise grim and depressed environment. However, Twain soon reveals that Henry’s joy is actually a delusion, for he has retreated into his own memories in order to cope with the loss of his beloved wife to an Indian attack nineteen years earlier. Not only is Henry held captive by his own madness, he also represents the helplessness that takes hold of men left to tend to a woman’s sphere without a woman’s actual presence. Although he is a character in the story, Henry functions also as a symbol of madness, as well as of the isolating nature of the male sphere when devoid of feminine influence. Henry is a classically tragic figure in his descent into madness, as well as an archetypical symbol in Naturalistic fiction who is beholden to circumstances beyond his control. Through no real fault of his own, Henry cannot withstand the harshness of his scarred environment, the cutthroat nature of capitalist individualism, and the loss of his wife at the whims of the latter two forces.

Henry Quotes in The Californian’s Tale

The The Californian’s Tale quotes below are all either spoken by Henry or refer to Henry. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Manifest Destiny vs. Reality Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Bantam edition of The Californian’s Tale published in 2005.
The Californian’s Tale Quotes

It was a lovely region, woodsy, balmy, delicious, and had once been populous, long years before, but now the people had vanished and the charming paradise was a solitude. They went away when the surface diggings gave out.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Henry
Page Number: 317
Explanation and Analysis:

Round about California in that day were scattered a host of these living dead men—pride-smitten poor fellows, grizzled and old at forty, whose secret thoughts were made all of regrets and longings.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Henry, Tom, Joe , Charley
Page Number: 318
Explanation and Analysis:

That was all hard, cheerless, materialistic desolation, but here was a nest which had aspects to rest the tired eye.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Henry, Henry’s Wife
Related Symbols: Henry’s Cottage
Page Number: 319
Explanation and Analysis:

“I've seen her fix all these things so much that I can do them all just her way, though I don't know the law of any of them. But she knows the law. She knows the why and the how both; but I don't know the why; I only know the how.”

Related Characters: Henry (speaker), The Narrator, Henry’s Wife, Tom, Joe , Charley
Related Symbols: Henry’s Cottage
Page Number: 319
Explanation and Analysis:

I was feeling a deep, strong longing to see her—a longing so supplicating, so insistent, that it made me afraid.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Henry, Henry’s Wife
Related Symbols: Henry’s Cottage
Page Number: 321
Explanation and Analysis:

[A] loving, sedate, and altogether charming and gracious piece of handiwork, with a postscript full of affectionate regards and messages to Tom, and Joe, and Charley.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Henry, Henry’s Wife
Related Symbols: Henry’s Cottage
Page Number: 321
Explanation and Analysis:

Charley fetched out one hearty speech after another, and did his best to drive away his friend's bodings and apprehensions.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Henry, Henry’s Wife, Charley
Related Symbols: Henry’s Cottage
Page Number: 323
Explanation and Analysis:

Joe brought the glasses on a waiter, and served the party. I reached for one of the two remaining glasses, but Joe growled, under his breath: "Drop that! Take the other." Which I did. Henry was served last.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Henry, Henry’s Wife, Tom, Joe , Charley
Related Symbols: Henry’s Cottage
Page Number: 323
Explanation and Analysis:

Never has been sane an hour since. But he only gets bad when that time of the year comes round. Then we begin to drop in here, three days before she's due, to encourage him up.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Henry, Henry’s Wife, Tom, Joe , Charley
Related Symbols: Henry’s Cottage
Page Number: 324
Explanation and Analysis:
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Henry Character Timeline in The Californian’s Tale

The timeline below shows where the character Henry appears in The Californian’s Tale. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Californian’s Tale
Masculine vs. Feminine Space Theme Icon
...a woman’s hand distributes about a home.” The owner of the cottage, whose name is Henry, finds great joy in seeing the Narrator so pleased with the décor. Henry tells the... (full context)
Masculine vs. Feminine Space Theme Icon
Madness Theme Icon
Henry brings the Narrator into a bedroom to wash his hands at a sink. Like the... (full context)
Masculine vs. Feminine Space Theme Icon
Madness Theme Icon
Henry tells the Narrator that his wife is visiting friends about forty miles away, but she... (full context)
Manifest Destiny vs. Reality Theme Icon
Masculine vs. Feminine Space Theme Icon
Madness Theme Icon
On Thursday evening, another grizzled old miner named Tom arrives at Henry’s cottage and asks about the status of Henry’s wife. Henry pulls out a letter she... (full context)
Manifest Destiny vs. Reality Theme Icon
Madness Theme Icon
Finally, Saturday arrives and the Narrator and Henry wait for the first sign of Henry’s wife. The Narrator becomes increasingly impatient, staring repeatedly... (full context)
Manifest Destiny vs. Reality Theme Icon
Masculine vs. Feminine Space Theme Icon
Madness Theme Icon
...help the other men decorate the cottage with flowers before they begin playing boisterous music. Henry stands at his door looking at the road until the other men convince him to... (full context)