Though James is certainly not known for his sense of humor, he displays a keen sense of satire in this novel. The two senses are not identical--many readers expect satire to make them laugh out loud, and those readers will be disappointed in this book. James' satire is more likely to make readers feel uncomfortable. He repeatedly mocks the two main characters and their struggle to control a young woman who hardly seems worth the effort that these two egoists put into her pursuit. James allows Olive Chancellor and Basil Ransom (whose names evoke the satiricomic tradition in which he is writing) to take themselves seriously while allowing the readers to see them as stereotypes. While satire depends on such stereotypes, James' fiction typically delves into the psychological. At times, he is able to keep this balance, but often the tension is too great and the characters seem to fall flat. Verena Tarrant--the object of Olive and Basil's affection--is virtually absent psychologically (as others have noted), but her lack of character is built into the novel. She begins as her father's possession, and the novel hinges on whether Olive or Basil get to own her next. While the novel is certainly not without faults, it is interesting to watch a novelist as self-conscious as James attempt to write a novel of this type. While he wasn't destined to become a comic genius, this novel is a step toward the psychological, satirical and comic success he was to have in a novel such as "The Ambassadors."