In The Art of Fiction Henry James states and supports his belief that a novel is art and that it is the responsibility of the novelist to take that art form seriously. James states that writers should write realistically and avoid "make-believe and "apologetic (Perkins 443) forms of literature. James openly states that "fiction is one of the fine arts, deserving in its turn all the honors (Perkins 444). James goes on to say that the true art of writing fiction is "to catch the color of life itself (Perkins 456). In The Art of Fiction Henry James publicly discusses his own private opinion in an attempt to remind writers of their duty to create a "perfect work (Perkins 456).
Henry James uses The Art of Fiction to publicly notify writers that they are not taking their writing seriously, and to try too defining his own work as an art form. James writes The Art of Fiction after dedicating a lifetime to writing fiction. James comes to realize that readers are capable of and will enjoy reading about complex, emotional, and intense characters. Thus he emphasizes that writers have to challenge their readers be creating complex and emotional works. He urges writers to take their work seriously when he states "It must take itself seriously for the public to take it so (Perkins 443). He uses his critical essay The Art of Fiction to point this out as a major fault in the literature of his time. James views the literature in the late eighteenth century to be "apologetic (Perkins 443) and somewhat unrealistic. James felt that he had a responsibility as a published writer to stress the importance of artistic and "effective literary expression (Harper 429). James' goal is to encourage novelists to take writing a novel seriously, he hopes of elevating fiction to the same level as music and painting, a fine art.