[Read Book] ♀ The Portrait of a Lady ♖ Franzbielmeier.de

spoilers Portrait is a beautifully written novel that exhibits Henry James unique writing style and addresses the social customs and differences in Americans, the English, and continental Europeans Isabel Archer is a young American lady, for whom the novel is titled, who is adventurous and very independent She turns down two marriage proposals in the 1st half of the book to preserve her independence, one from Casper Goodwood, a young wealthy American, and one from Lord Warburton, a wealthy English aristocrat When her English uncle dies, she inherits a large sum of money and travels with her aunt, Mrs Touchett, to her Italian villa where she eventually meets, falls in love with, and marries Gilbert Osmond All of her family and friends try to dissuade her from this, but to no avail, and she finally learns that Osmond doesn t love her, married her for her money, and to own her as another of his possessions Obviously there is a lotintrigue to the story and the enjoyment for me came from the wonderful writing of James. Ugh, ech, the elitism that breeds in readers We think we re such nicey cosy bookworms and wouldn t harm a fly but we seethe, we do Of course, readers of books just naturally look down on those who don t read at all In fact they try not to think of those people nine tenths of the human race I suppose, but a tenth of the human race is still a big number because it makes them shudder How lovely it would be to go riding in a carriage through some dreadful council estate flinging free copies of Ulysses and Mrs Dalloway right and left although Ulysses might catch some of those urchins a hefty blow on the temple which might cause a shift in their brain landscape and evoke a sudden craving for modernist novels, like when people are struck by a bus and wake up talking in a French accent, that can happen So that s one obvious kind of reader elitism But then, some readers think that what the majority of readers actually read is appalling Hungervinciboneskitehelpslappery Twilit Shades of Pottery doo dah It s not that you read, it s what you read Of course And then, amongst those elevated readers, some literary authors are considered greater than some others why are you wasting your time with William Gaddis when you could be knee deep in Proust, dwarling I simply don t understand it And then, even when you scale the heights and find yourself munching down some Henry James like he was the last well done steak with Chateau Lafleur you were going to get before your solo trek no huskies to the south pole, you still get it oh dwarling, why are you still dillydallying in the Middle Period when you still haven t read The Golden Bowl you naughty Jamesian you Thus it is that I say oh no, not The Portrait of a Lady Too too obvious Try The Awkward Age or The Ambassadors Much better. [Read Book] ♕ The Portrait of a Lady ⚓ When Isabel Archer, A Beautiful, Spirited American, Is Brought To Europe By Her Wealthy Aunt Touchett, It Is Expected That She Will Soon Marry But Isabel, Resolved To Determine Her Own Fate, Does Not Hesitate To Turn Down Two Eligible Suitors She Then Finds Herself Irresistibly Drawn To Gilbert Osmond, Who, Beneath His Veneer Of Charm And Cultivation, Is Cruelty Itself A Story Of Intense Poignancy, Isabel S Tale Of Love And Betrayal Still Resonates With Modern Audiences I ve been reading a lot of Anthony Trollope s books recently and the stories, characters and writing is so much superior to this that I just can t get into it Frothy is a word that comes to mind, also was he paid by the word like Dickens I finished the book, finally It was a chore I did not find James portrayal of a woman s personality convincing That even though she had the financial power which was the reason why her husband had married her, she would still allow herself to be physically and emotionally abused and humiliated It seemed to be a very conventional view of a woman, that eventually she would give in to her Lord and Master A woman with an ounce of independence she did have an ounce, maybe even two at the beginning would not be the sad creature she was at the end Marriages were made in light of money and status in those times, in this book, she had both, he had neither, there had to be some sort of mental shift that that would allow her to pretend that these were her husband s and she was in the lower and grateful position But James didn t write it, so Portrait really didn t make sense.None of the characters, evil, good or milk water gained my sympathy Pansy, the daughter, nearly did, but I wanted to shake her and say how could you have lived all these years and not suspected who your mother is Your father has palmed you off on the nuns all these years, what s with this unquestioning obedience Its your step mother has the money, not him, she s the one who can help you, would help you,not your daddy who just wants you to achieve his own social climbing ambitions I just don t see James as a man who understood women enough to write about them from any but a man s perspective.I watched the Nichole Kidman film of the book and although Kidman did her best to flesh out the character she was norounded than in the book And Poppy s submissiveness and ignorance were evenunbelievable Obviously, to James, the main characteristic he associated with women and interpreted thusly by the director, was submissiveness.Henry James may have deserved his reputation as a Grand Old Man of American letters, but not through this book, it just didn t do it for me. The Portrait of a lady, Henry JamesThe Portrait of a Lady is a novel by Henry James, first published as a serial in The Atlantic Monthly and Macmillan s Magazine in 1880 81 and then as a book in 1881 It is one of James s most popular long novels and is regarded by critics as one of his finest The Portrait of a Lady is the story of a spirited young American woman, Isabel Archer, who, in confronting her destiny , finds it overwhelming She inherits a large amount of money and subsequently becomes the victim of Machiavellian scheming by two American expatriates Like many of James s novels, it is set in Europe, mostly England and Italy Generally regarded as the masterpiece of James s early period, this novel reflects James s continuing interest in the differences between the New World and the Old, often to the detriment of the former It also treats in a profound way the themes of personal freedom, responsibility, and betrayal 1971 1348 866 31 433 1390 798 9789644484964 19 54 866 I had many wonderful moments while reading this book, moments when the writing halted the reading, when I had to pause and admire and wonder Moments when the book seemed to speak to my own experience as if it were written expressly for the girl who was me at twenty two, causing me to wonder how Henry James could have guessed so well the presumptuous ideas I had about life and love at that early stage All of that is very personal, of course, and not necessarily of interest to other readers, but there were other moments in my reading of The Portrait of a Lady that better merit mention in a review I had read this book before, about twenty years ago, so although I knew the bare bones of the story, I remembered few of the details I certainly had no recollection of the early scene in which Isabel Archer walks in on an unknown guest in her aunt s house And yet there was something about the lead up to that scene that caught my attention this time the house is very still because Isabel s uncle is dying Out of the silence comes the sound of someone playing the piano Wonderingly, Isabel makes her way toward the source of the harmony. Those six words were like a bell ringing in my mind I felt a sharpening of interest, an awareness of how pivotal this moment would be in the story I remember thinking I ve been reading this book with all senses on alert and this is my reward I ve sensed the author s excitement at the turn his story is about to take There was another scene later in the book when I had a similar feeling of change about to happen Isabel sits up late one night in Rome pondering a difficult decision, indeed pondering all the decisions in her life so far The reader watches with her and wonders how she will act And wonders again when she finally does.There are other major shifts in the narrative but none stood out for me quite the way those two did In fact, Henry James purposely avoids describing the most significant shift of all, skipping a three year section of Isabel s life completely which is a very effective narrative device of course, introducing both surprise and suspense in a story that has only a six year span in total As a reader I appreciated both strategies the emphasis he seemed to place on some scenes and the complete omission he allowed to others It was all very wonderful In fact this book has revised my idea of what wonderful means The Portrait of a Lady is vying for a place as the highlight of my Henry James reading year even though The Ambassadors was already firmly camped in that position I ve decided they can be the joint highlight they have a lot of wonderfulness in common.When I finished The Portrait , I turned to HJ s 1906 appendix and found a paragraph about his concerns for the reader He writes that he has purposely piled brick upon brick for our benefit, carefully including the details that will enable us to grasp the totality of his creation And among those details, he mentions two in particular, keystones in the building of the story as it were The first is the piano scene I described earlier He speaks of the rare chemistry of that scene in which Isabel recognizes that a huge change is about to happen in her life I felt really validated as a reader to have been aware in advance of the significance of what I was about to read, and so I wasn t surprised when his other pivotal scene turned out to be the one where Isabel sits up late into the Roman night, pondering her decisions This is the sixteenth Henry James book I ve read in six months Perhaps I ve learnt something of the way his writer s mind works More confirmation of that possibility came when he began to discuss the shape of this novel He continues to speak in terms of bricks and architecture and proportions, and he says that of all his novels, The Portrait is the best proportioned with the exception of a novel he was to write twenty two years later The Ambassadors Alongside a certain roundness in shape which they share, he finds they also share a kind of supporting beam or rib that runs through them This rib is made from two minor but key characters, Henrietta Stackpole and Maria Gostrey Both seem extraneous to each story at first glance yet both are central to the architecture of their particular story I remember noting that Maria Gostrey was the thread that allowed me to find my way through the labyrinth that was The Ambassadors so it was wonderful to hear Henry James confirm that, and underline the links between the two books as well I was also reminded that I had begun to look at his books in terms of architecture while reading The Wings of the Dove, so I really appreciated his architectural metaphors.In fact the appendix left me amazed and wondering at every turn In the updates, I quoted part of a paragraph on his theories about the house of fiction I d like to quote the whole thing here because it is really worth reading and it provided me with huge insights into some Gerald Murnane books I ve puzzled over in the past, The Plains and Inland, and offered a strong desire to read his Million Windows The house of fiction has in short not one window, but a million a number of possible windows not to be reckoned, rather every one of which has been pierced, or is still pierceable, in its vast front, by the need of the individual vision and by the pressure of the individual will These apertures, of dissimilar shape and size, hang so, all together, over the human scene that we might have expected of them a greater sameness of report than we find They are but windows at the best, mere holes in a dead wall, disconnected, perched aloft they are not hinged doors opening straight upon life But they have this mark of their own that at each of them stands a figure with a pair of eyes, or at least with a field glass, which forms, again and again, for observation, a unique instrument, insuring to the person making use of it an impression distinct from every other He and his neighbors are watching the same show, but one seeingwhere the other sees less, one seeing black where the other sees white, one seeing big where the other sees small, one seeing coarse where the other sees fine And so on, and so on there is fortunately no saying on what, for the particular pair of eyes, the window may NOT open fortunately by reason, precisely, of this incalculability of range The spreading field, the human scene, is the choice of subject the pierced aperture, either broad or balconied or slit like and low browed, is the literary form but they are, singly or together, as nothing without the posted presence of the watcher without, in other words, the consciousness of the artist Tell me what the artist is, and I will tell you of what he has BEEN conscious Thereby I shall express to you at once his boundless freedom and his moral reference. This book is the final one in my 2017 Henry James season and I can t think of a better title to finish on But in every ending there are beginnings The Portrait has led me to another book Henry James says he took the slight personality , the mere slim shade of an intelligent but presumptuous girl and created what he called an ado about Isabel Archer That reference has prompted me to go back to Shakespeare and read Much Ado About Nothing I do love when one book leads to another Book Review3 out of 5 stars for The Portrait of a Lady, a classic story called the Great American Novel, written by Henry James in 1881 I adore Henry James and found great enjoyment in his literary works when I began reading him in my freshmen year at college As an English major, I was exposed to many different authors, but I felt a strong connection with him and this literary period American realistic works spoke to me above any of the other classic books I had been reading As a result, I chose Henry James as the primary focus of an independent study course I d taken in my senior year I read 6 or 7 of his books during those 3 months and am going back now to provide quick reviews, as not everyone finds him as enjoyable as I do I also don t want to bore everyone with a lengthy review on how to interpret him or his books.The Portrait of a Lady tells the story of a young woman who years to have her own life and make her own mark on the world She doesn t want to be contained by marriage or the structure in place at the time in the late 19th century She has different characteristics coming from American, English and continental European female archetypes She has strong moral and ethical values She knows who she is, yet she does not know all As she moves through life, she makes choices that are not easy for her to execute What I loved about this work is its deep exploratory view points, beautiful language and unparalleled characters Though I only give it a 3, when compared to some of this other works, I would recommend you read a few chapters or sections, just to see if it is something you could find yourself getting lost in.The impact you feel upon reading this book is questioning what is the true view of a lady, how is she different from generation to generate, location to location and societal class to societal class James knows women He is very accurate on many levels wrong on a few, too But to put out his thoughts, in a huge tome, at a time when women were beginning to getrights and be able to cross genres and genders is amazing It s less about what he says andabout how he says it And that s why I enjoy reading him but even I admit, I can only take 1 book every few yearsAbout MeFor those new to me or my reviews here s the scoop I read A LOT I write A LOT And now I blog A LOT First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at where you ll also find TV Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I ve visited all over the world And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who what when where and my pictures Leave a comment and let me know what you think Vote in the poll and ratings Thanks for stopping by. Henry James The Portrait of a Lady is considered to be one of the first American novels to make full use of social and psychological realism as European authors such as Flaubert, Balzac and George Eliot were already practicing in their works Considered to be his biggest accomplishment along with The Ambassadors, Portrait added Isabel Archer to the company of great fictional heroines as the likes of Elizabeth Bennet, Becky Sharp and Jane Eyre and, in a century marked by unsatisfied bourgeois wives and adultery in fiction Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina come to mind , it was a breath of fresh air to accompany and delve into James protagonist s thoughts and inner feelings.Starting with a very slow pace, the narrative contains long and elaborate descriptions It feels James is painting a richly detailed picture for every scene As we arrive in Gardencourt the Touchett s English country estate where our story opens and closes , we encounter Mr Touchett, his son Ralph and a family friend called Lord Warburton Among other things, they discuss how Mrs Lydia Touchett is in America and will bring along her niece called Isabel Archer to visit Europe.Isabel is a young woman, from Albany, New York, who accepts her aunt s offer to initially stay with her in Gardencourt and then later travel through the continent, eager to explore and be enriched by the places she s never been before and experience life at its fullest Upon her arrival, we begin to learn what her ideals and plans are, along with her hopes and dreams.Since the beginning, her cousin Ralph seems to have been as curious as we were to see what Isabel would make of her life In a way, we almost could say Ralph was conducting an experiment Isabel had an independent mind, she was emotionally and psychologically self sufficient didn t seem inclined to get married for the time being, which was different for a girl of her age at the time She was thirsty for knowledge first and foremostI don t want to begin life by marrying , Isabel asserts to RalphThere are other things a woman can doBut without money, how far could she go with her unattached ways She was probably bound to eventually getting married Her cousin, then, arranged it and she became financially independent as well Certain that he was doing Isabel a good deed, Ralph convinced his father who was very fond of Isabel at his deathbed to leave her an impressive amount of money Now she had all that was necessary to decide her destiny without any barriers or anyone to hold her back The experiment was on.After traveling for over a year, the now wealthy Isabel Archer is in Florence, where her aunt lives A friend she greatly admired, Madame Merle Mrs Touchett s close friend who Isabel got acquainted with some time after she arrived in Gardencourt skillfully introduces her to Gilbert Osmond an American expatriate widower who s lived in Italy for years Isabel is very impressed with his refinement and intelligence and thinks of him as having a beautiful mind Despite her family and friends complaints about this relationship, Isabel after having declined two previous suitors accepts Osmond s marriage proposal.The story then jumps in time and there s a narrative shift for a bit, James leaves Isabel and Osmond in the background while he focuses on Pansy Osmond Osmond s young daughter and Edward Rosier Isabel s childhood friend who s in love with Miss Osmond and is trying to get Madame Merle to help him marry his darling girl Through their story, we still have glimpses of Isabel s life and we learn that she s been now married for two years and that she lost a son who died six months after his birth Isabel and her husband seems to disagree about everything and we learn she s unhappy.Henry James, who once conducted a very slow paced almost contemplative narrative, gradually started to accelerate it, adding drama and a sense of urgency to his words Right after an unsettling argument with Osmond one evening, Isabel, now feelingdistraught than ever, starts pondering and analyzing the many circumstances she finds herself in The author immerses us in a deeply personal and intensely psychological account of her thoughts and emotions Among the things Isabel reflected upon for a long time were the conclusion that her husband must hate her and the realization that Osmond had gained total control of her the once independent and strong witted woman was now a subjugated spirit the woman who once seemed to be against doing what was expected of her was now conforming to her husband s decisionsWhen the clock struck four she got up she was going to bed at last, for the lamp had long since gone out and the candles burned down to their sockets Complicating things even further is the revelation Countess Gemini Osmond s sister makes to Isabel of a long time secret, that leaves her completely shaken This only comes to deteriorate evenher relationship with Gilbert Now, fully aware of the situation she was put in through manipulations and schemes, Isabel is faced with a big decision her cousin Ralph is dying in Gardencourt and her dictatorial husband is completely against her visiting England Showing the old Isabel may still be somewhere locked inside of herself, she confronts her husband and leaves to be with her cousin The Portrait of a Lady, through its length, presents a number of opposites, but the most striking ones are the battles between freedom vs destiny and affection vs betrayal In the book s final moments, we witness that Isabel is offered a way to go back to where and to whom she was when she first came to EuropeThe world s all before us and the world s very big , she is told She could once again explore life and fill herself with hopes but declined the opportunityThe world s very small , she answered With a much talked about conclusion that has both fascinated and infuriated another battle of opposites readers, James ending remains open to a lot of interpretations.It s disturbing to watch an unhappily married woman with an opportunity to leave it all behind and the means to do it simply not choosing freedom Did Osmond finally accomplish to shatter her spirit Another theory is that maybe marriage was an unbreakable vow and she felt she had a moral duty to her husband Or was she trying to be protective of Pansy who was mirroring Isabel s unhappiness and was another example of a woman who seemed to think that she was obliged to follow other s decisions even if it made her unhappy and determined to stand by her side and not let the same happen to her step daughter Innumerable possibilitiesJames has been known for structuring his novels with a series of circles surrounding a center With that in mind, a hopeful interpretation of the book s ending is that, in order to complete that circle, Isabel must return to her husband, properly end her marriage so she could once again be able to start anew and free her spirit once and for all.Rating for such an interesting and comprehensive analysis of freedom, human consciousness and ultimately, existentialism 4 stars. 10 Things I Love About Henry James s The Portrait Of A Lady1 Isabel ArcherThe lady in the title Beautiful, young, headstrong and spirited, the American woman visits her wealthy relatives in England, rejects marriage proposals by two worthy suitors, inherits a fortune and then is manipulated into marrying one of the most odious creatures on the planet, Gilbert Osmond She s utterly fascinating, and if I were back in university, I imagine having long conversations and arguments about her character What does she want Freedom The ability to choose, even if it s a bad choice Is she a projection of James s latent homosexuality Is she a feminist or not There are no simple answers 2 The Prose and Psychological ComplexityDamn, James knew how to write long, luxuriant sentences that dig deep into his characters minds Sometimes the effect can be claustrophobic get me out of this person s head butoften it s utterly compelling and convincing We partly read fiction to learn about other people s lives, right Well, James does that The exceptions Isabel s two wealthy, handsome suitors, Warburton and Goodwood, are less than believable, and remind me of eager or horny dogs, their tails wagging whenever they re around their love lust object 3 The StoryOkay, not much really happens But as the book progressed, even though I sort of knew the outcome it s hard to avoid spoilers from a 135 year old classic , I was increasingly curious to see how Isabel would act In fact, I raced through the final chapters, breathlessly Who knew Henry James, page turner And have a theory about that ending Take your turn4 The HumourIt s not a comedy, but there are lots of amusing bits James s narrator is genial and funny Henrietta Stackpole, her gentleman friend, Mr Bantling, and even Gilbert Osmond s sister, the Countess Gemini, are all very colourful characters who elicit a chuckle or two And Isabel s aunt can be terribly cutting as well I love Ralph Isabel s cousin and the dignified British Lord Warburton s reactions to the enterprising, no fuss American lady journalist Henrietta 5 The SettingsEach one is significant from the stately Gardencourt, home of Isabel s relatives the Touchetts, to the bustle and anonymity of London, to the ruins of Rome, where Isabel finds herself stuck in a dead, fossilized marriage James is a master at finding the right place to stage a scene I could write an essay about interiors and exteriors in the book, but I ll spare you.6 The VillainsMadame Merle and Gilbert Osmond individually they re sinister, but together they re positively Machiavellian In fact, in one scene, it s revealed that they both like Machiavelli, and Isabel doesn t get the clue They totally play her And yet they re believable, too Osmond s scene in which he professes his love is brilliant in its manipulation and the final turn of the screw asking her to do him a favour is very clever Madame Merle s motivations always keep you guessing Does she see herself in Isabel Is she jealous Does she just want to exert her power over her The scene in which Isabel sees both in her home, conspiring evident from their attitudes is so powerful James refers to it a couple of times And of course, it s missing from the Jane Campion film see below.7 The ThemesDoes money corrupt What do you really know about someone before you marry What is the true nature of freedom What happens when New World American innocence meets Old World European experience All these themes and many others come across naturally, and never feel shoe horned into the story.8 The TechniqueI remember hearing people go on about the architecture of Henry James s novels, and this one is sturdily, handsomely built The book begins and ends in the same setting And there are some ingenious sections in the middle, where time has passed and the reader discovers major information through conversations Like any great writer, James knows what to leave out He makes you do work to fill in the pieces, but the novel becomesmemorable because of that And he bridges the Victorian and Modern eras, in the same way that Beethoven bridges the Classical and Romantic eras.9 Chapter 42After a huge blowup with Osmond, Isabel stays up all night, staring into the fireplace, and ponders her life, thinking How did I get here James considered it one of the best things he d ever written, and although I haven t read a lot of his work which I will soon remedy , I d have to agree It s right up there with Hamlet s soliloquies.10 The Fact that the Book Doesn t Lend Itself Well To Adaptation A couple days after finishing the book, I watched the Campion film starring Nicole Kidman Besides an evocative score and a brilliant performance by Barbara Hershey as Madame Merle and a suitably slimy one by John Malkovich basically changing costumes from his Dangerous Liaisons character , it was dreadfully dull There have been other James adaptations The Wings Of The Dove, The Golden Bowl, The Bostonians but none of these films has achieved the critical or popular success of an Age Of Innocence, Howards End or Room With A View Maybe it s hard to get that psychological complexity onscreen Read the books Conclusion James is The Master Up til now, I d only read his shorter works, like the novellas The Turn Of The Screw, Daisy Miller I still don t quite know what killed her sorry if that s a spoiler and The Beast In The Jungle Now I m eyeing his other major novels perhaps I ll even get through the notoriously difficult late period James Can t wait to try For my dear friend Jeffrey Keeten I would not have read it if it were not for you ThanksHenry James The Portrait of a Lady touched me deeply Since I finished this novel a few days ago, I could not seem to stop thinking about it as I tried to organize my feelings That I was mesmerized by it, there is no doubt So much that the search for its understanding has occupied practically all my free moments And to fully grasp it I could not do without Henry James masterful help, so forgive me if you find I quote him too often Oh, but this is a work in progress, so forgive me again for any inaccuracy or inconsistency 1 The complexity of Isabel ArcherMillions of presumptuous girls, intelligent or not intelligent, daily affront their destiny, and what is it open to their destiny to be, at the most, that we should make an ado about it The novel is of its very nature an ado, an ado about something, and the larger the form it takes the greater of course the ado Therefore, consciously, that was what one was in for for positively organising an ado about Isabel ArcherPortrait of a Lady is the story of a young American woman, Isabel Archer, and her voyage of self discovery I loved getting into Isabel s conflicted mind, her doubts and her confidence, her wishes and her choices I went even further and identified thoroughly with Isabel Archer I could relate to her conflicted mind, her dreams and ultimate choices She was a pleasure to know, because she is so extraordinarily complex, complex in a way that fictional people seldom are.From the first we learn how Isabel valued her freedom, in a dialogue with her cousin RalphAdopted me The girl stared, and her blush came back to her, together with a momentary look of pain Oh no she has not adopted me I m not a candidate for adoption I beg a thousand pardons, Ralph murmured I meant You meant she has taken me up Yes she likes to take people up but, she added with a certain visible eagerness of desire to be explicit, I m very fond of my liberty The secondary characters are there to explain Isabel Archer, as Henry James tells usthey are there, for what they are worth the definite array of contributions to Isabel Archer s history I recognized them, I knew them, they were numbered pieces of my puzzle, the concrete term of my plot Mrs Touchett, her aunt, brings Isabel to Europe but is indifferent and unfeeling Ralph is initially amused by her and helps her to inherit a fortune, only to guarantee her choices and the freedom to follow them he probably is the only one that thoroughly loved Isabel Madam Merle manages her meeting with Osmond and makes sure they end up married Osmond thinks of her as oneitem for his collection Mr Goodwood is persistent and never loses interest in her life coming back again and again to see how she is , but seems to offer nothingLord Warburton is a fair aristocratic friend to Isabel, but was he truly in love with her or merely looking for a trophy wife Henrietta Stackpole, is a true friend and probably an antithesis to Isabel and Pansy, the artless creation of her husband, depends on Isabel as the only person who throughly loves her So everyone, including the reader, look upon her, judge her decisions and contemplate as she takes each of her fateful steps into her destiny.Oh, there is muchabout Isabel, and I hope I will be able to know her better once I am finished.2 The images and metaphors of Isabel Archer s lifeTo discuss this I first I want to tell you about a recurrent dream I had for a very long time Sometimes, I dreamed that I was walking down the corridor on my home and discovered a door I had never realized existed deciding to explore I would open it and it led me to a new, endless row of rooms, all grand with high windows and sunny, overlooking majestic gardens that I had never observed existed before As I opened each door amazing new discoveries were revealed to me My feelings were of exuberance, of happiness to have discovered so much beauty inside my home But there was a variation to these recurrent dreams, or worst, there were also nightmares In these I also discovered new places never visited before, however they would be dark and looked nowhere As a result of this oppressive atmosphere I used to feel like I was in an endless prison inside my own home I rejoiced in the first and feared to revisit those nightmares.So, when I started reading The Portrait of a Lady, it was fascinating to read how Henry James uses symbolic or metaphorical architectural spaces and places to tell us about Isabel Archer and her life This was something I knew and it remitted directly to my dreams and my deepest selfHer imagination was by habit ridiculously active when the door was not open it jumped out of the window She was not accustomed indeed to keep it behind bolts and at important moments, when she would have been thankful to make use of her judgement alone, she paid the penalty of having given undue encouragement to the faculty of seeing without judging We first meet Isabel at Gardencourt,Her uncle s house seemed a picture made real no refinement of the agreeable was lost upon Isabel the rich perfection of Gardencourt at once revealed a world and gratified a need The large, low rooms, the deep greenness outside, that seemed always peeping in, the sense of well ordered privacy in the centre of a property much to the taste of our young lady, whose taste played a considerable part in her emotions By marrying Osmond Isabel ends up enveloped in a palace dark and suffocatingShe could live it over again, the incredulous terror with which she had taken the measure of her dwelling Between those four walls she had lived ever since they were to surround her for the rest of her life It was the house of darkness, the house of dumbness, the house of suffocation Osmond s beautiful mind gave it neither light nor air Osmond s beautiful mind indeed seemed to peep down from a small high window and mock at her There, she seeks refuge or consolation on the ruins of Rome, for her a symbol of hope for despite their long sufferings they are still standingShe had long before this taken old Rome into her confidence, for in a world of ruins the ruin of her happiness seemed a less unnatural catastrophe She rested her weariness upon things that had crumbled for centuries and yet still were upright she dropped her secret sadness into the silence of lonely places, so that as she sat in a sun warmed angle on a winter s day, she could smile at it and think of its smallness But, ultimately, she seeks refuge onceat GardencourtAll purpose, all intention, was suspended all desire too save the single desire to reach her much embracing refuge Gardencourt had been her starting point, and to those muffled chambers it was at least a temporary solution to return She had gone forth in her strength she would come back in her weakness, and if the place had been a rest to her before, it would be a sanctuary now 3 Isabel s choices and freedomIsabel s ability to choose, and the choices she makes are the thread that is carefully woven throughout the novel, and it raises her stature as a fictional heroine, in my opinion, to the level of that of an Anna Karenina or an Emma Bovary For better or for worseI m not bent on a life of misery, said Isabel I ve always been intensely determined to be happy, and I ve often believed I should be I ve told people that But it comes over me every now and then that I can never be happy in any extraordinary way not by turning away, by separating myself By separating yourself from what From life From the usual chances and dangers, from what most people know and suffer The moment Isabel inherits starts the process whereupon she loses some of her freedomThere s one remarkable clause in my husband s will, Mrs Touchett added He has left my niece a fortune A fortune Madame Merle softly repeated Isabel steps into something like seventy thousand pounds Madame Merle s hands were clasped in her lap at this she raised them, still clasped, and held them a moment against her bosom while her eyes, a little dilated Ah, she cried, the clever creature And around Isabel there is always a sense of dangerI try to careabout the world than about myself but I always come back to myself It s because I m afraid She stopped her voice had trembled a little Yes, I m afraid I can t tell you A large fortune means freedom, and I m afraid of that It s such a fine thing, and one should make such a good use of it If one shouldn t one would be ashamed I m not sure it s not a greater happiness to be powerless But was she really free or were her choices not as free as she dreamed Or was it all inevitable to some degree It seems that Isabel Archer s life was to some extend inescapable and this fact was not totally unknown to her However, she thoroughly recongnizes how misguided she had been in her choice of husbandIt was as if he had had the evil eye as if his presence were a blight and his favour a misfortune Was the fault in himself, or only in the deep mistrust she had conceived for him This mistrust was now the clearest result of their short married life a gulf had opened between them over which they looked at each other with eyes that were on either side a declaration of the deception suffered Subsequentely, Isabel remains too proud to show it to the her friends But despite all her efforts to conceal her misery, she cannot camouflage it from Ralph and CasparWatching her Trying to make out if she s happy That s easy to make out, said Ralph She s the most visibly happy woman I know Exactly so I m satisfied, Goodwood answered dryly For all his dryness, however, he hadto say I ve been watching her She pretends to be happy that was what she undertook to be and I thought I should like to see for myself what it amounts to I ve seen, he continued with a harsh ring in his voice, and I don t want to see anyI m now quite ready to go Sorrowful and heartbroken, that s how this passage made me feel But she is never to be pitied, she always stands upright despite doomed adversity Yes, I suspect there is a sense of inevitability what choices did she have, where her other suitors conductive of real happiness I think not which could have made Isabel Archer s into a tragedy But she is far from it, she still has choices Nevertheless, James work is not merely that It is a reflection upon the ideal of a relative freedom and a play with its execution in a woman s life the actions, its struggles and the consequent decisions taken by choice This is what James has achieved with this work that liberty is not only an ideal but a responsibility too Though the reader may not approve of all her choices at the end, keeping in mind the betrayal of trust brought about by Madam Merle and Osmond, they were all freely taken or the result of her own will A will which comes not merely from the limitations imposed by society, but by a newfound maturity, result of all her suffering, and above all from the vow to remain true to oneself 4 Henry James gives the reader plenty of room to imagineThere s something about Henry James work, and here in particular, that flares, tosses back and forth with unspoken frustration and desire James art, the one thing that makes him stand out for me, is in how he somehow implies, suggests, hints, but never outright tells the reader the ins and outs of his story He even skips years, and it only adds to its enjoyment If you want to live along with Isabel Archer, and I felt like I did, is to be conquered by infinite possibilities Here we are not mere spectator or bystanders but may live everything along with her, if we want to It is a hard reading that requires effort, but if we invest in it we can grasp the possibilities the whole world that exists beneath the surface of his work.5 Her ultimate choiceIsabel falls for Gilbert Osmond, to my mind, partly because he does not mindlessly adore her, does not fawn over her He takes his time in the courtship, he with the help of Madame Merle has a clear strategy and it works He is mysterious, indolent and there is the hint of a darker side He appears to be tired of everything, simply bored, so Isabel feels like for once she is helping somebody That her inheritance has a meaning, a destiny She seems to feel recompensated and fulfilledWhat has he ever done he added abruptly That I should marry him Nothing at all, Isabel replied while her patience helped itself by turning a little to hardness If he had done great things would you forgive me any better Give me up, Mr Goodwood I m marrying a perfect nonentity Don t try to take an interest in him You can t And we are not the only ones to be surprised by her choice to marry Gilbert Osmond Ralph was appalledI think I ve hardly got over my surprise, he went on at last You were the last person I expected to see caught I don t know why you call it caught Because you re going to be put into a cage If I like my cage, that needn t trouble you, she answered You must have changed immensely A year ago you valued your liberty beyond everything You wanted only to see life But she still has another choice ahead of her Her ultimate choice is whether or not to return to Osmond after she goes to Gardencourt to visit her dying cousin Again Henry James gifts us with a superb image that could not translate better the pervading dread of what she is about to doThere was a penetrating chill in the image, and she drew back into the deepest shade of Gardencourt She lived from day to day, postponing, closing her eyes, trying not to think She knew she must decide, but she decided nothing her coming itself had not been a decision On that occasion she had simply started And at last we understand her ultimate decision, although such resolution is not easily reachedThere were lights in the windows of the house they shone far across the lawn In an extraordinarily short time for the distance was considerable she had moved through the darkness for she saw nothing and reached the door Here only she paused She looked all about her she listened a little then she put her hand on the latch She had not known where to turn but she knew now There was a very straight path In the end I recognized a worthier andmature Isabel Archer, and I think that she comes out of her sufferings stronger I would like to imagine Osmond would be surprised by her when she gets back to Rome, and that she would be able to change her standing Their roles perhaps altered Although there should certainly beanguish ahead of her, given what she is going back to, I imagine there is always the possibility of happiness.