The Portrait of a Lady is a novel by Henry James, first published as a serial in The Atlantic Monthly and Macmillan Magazine in 1880-81 and then as a book in 1881. It is one of Sesame’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 “affronts her destiny” and 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 Sesame’s novels, it is set in Europe, mostly England and Italy. Generally regarded as the masterpiece of Sesame’s early period, this novel reflects Sesame’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. Ii: Key words: style and themes Americans and Europeans literary criticism freedom Introduction The Portrait of a Lady is often discussed as a novel of manners, a sociological study of the contrasts in mores and styles of Americans and Europeans. It’s also described as a psychological novel, charting the complex interplay between the minds of its major characters and exploring relentlessly and finely the consciousness of its heroine, Isabel.
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But these characterizations, while not entirely mistaken, obscure a central characteristic of the novel: The Portrait of a Lady is a fairy tale, or as James put it in the 1906 preface, a “fable”. With whatever authority he presents the psyches and social milieus of his Europeans and Americans and Europeanized Americans, and however carefully observed the locales??and the authority and care are absolute?? he project of The Portrait of a Lady is about as close to a work of social science as it is to a conventional potboiler.
Americans and Europeans, in the novel, are types: As Leon Del, Sesame’s great biographer and critic, has it, “In James’ fiction, Americans are often presented as if they still possess the innocence of Eden;” and furthermore, “it is striking how often the adjective ‘corrupt’ precedes the word ‘Europe'” (article in Scribner’s American Writers, Volt. 2, up. As they appear in The Portrait of a Lady, these representatives of the old and new worlds are rendered vividly, and they ay feel to the reader momentarily real, but in the end they are figures in a novelist’s dreams and meditations; they are as conceptual as they are concrete.
Similarly, “American girl” is not a category of mind or state of consciousness; it is a kind of representational ideal. In the author’s terms, the phrase “American girl” is almost reentrant. Boot ten words conjure Innocence Ana (In toner way) Duty IT, as e argues, America is an Eden, then a fall will come, as surely as a girl will become a woman or die. The phrase “American girl” also carries with it a hint of contradiction, fight between the two words: While an American is liberated, a girl is subject to all kinds of boundaries and limits. American girl,” then, is a phrase that conjures a story, a cheerful two words that together gather storm clouds. American girls are doubly doomed among the limits of European society; an American girl going to Europe is a pure white lamb bound to be ruined. About the author A brief introduction of Henry James Henry James, MM (1 5 April 1843 – 28 February 1916) was an American-born writer, regarded as one of the key figures of 19th-century literary realism. He was the son of Henry James, Sir. ND the brother of philosopher and psychologist William James and diarist Alice James.
James alternated between America and Europe for the first 20 years of his life, after which he settled in England, becoming a British subject in 1915, one year before his death. He is primarily known for the series of novels in which he portrays the encounter of Americans with Europe and Europeans. His method of writing from the point of view of a character within a tale allows him to explore issues related to consciousness interception, and his style in later works has been compared to impressionist painting.
James contributed significantly to literary eroticism, particularly in his insistence that writers be allowed the greatest possible freedom in presenting their view of the world. James claimed that a text must first and foremost be realistic and contain a representation of life that is recognizable to its readers. Good novels, to James, show life in action and are, most importantly, interesting. The concept of a good or bad novel is Judged solely upon whether the author is good or bad.
His imaginative use of point of view, interior monologue and possibly unreliable narrators in his own novels and tales brought a new depth and interest to narrative fiction. An extraordinarily productive writer, in addition to his voluminous works of fiction he published articles and books of travel, biography, autobiography, and criticism, and wrote plays, some of which were performed during his lifetime with moderate success. His theatrical work is thought to have profoundly influenced his later novels and tales.
About style and themes James is one of the major figures of trans-Atlantic literature. His works frequently juxtapose characters from the Old World (Europe), embodying a feudal civilization that is beautiful, often corrupt, and alluring, and from the New World (United States), here people are often brash, open, and assertive and embody the virtues??freedom and a more highly evolved moral character??of the new American society. James explores this clash of personalities and cultures, in stories of personal relationships in which power is exercised well or badly.
His protagonists were often young American women facing oppression or abuse, and as his secretary Theodore Bouquets remarked in her monograph Henry James at Work: When he walked out of the refuge of his study and into the world and looked around him, he saw a place of torment, where creatures of prey perpetually thrust their claws into the quivering less of doomed, defenseless children of light His novels are a repeated exposure AT tons yellowness, a reiterated Ana passionate plea Tort ten Tulles Treetop AT development, UN-imperiled by reckless and barbarous stupidity.
In his apprentice years, culminating with the masterwork The Portrait of a Lady,his style was simple and direct (by the standards of Victorian magazine writing) and he experimented widely with forms and methods, generally narrating from a conventionally omniscient point of view. Plots generally concern romance, except for the three big novels of social commentary that conclude this period. About the work About the plot The Portrait of a Lady bears the details and precision of psychological and social realism, but the novel is structured like a kind of old-fashioned legend.
We have an ordinary girl, Isabel, who on venturing into Europe becomes a sort of princess, an heiress related to her uncle, the banker Daniel Touched, who in his kindness, power, and benevolence is as good as a king. Once in this strange land, Isabel is wooed by Princes Charming, Paragons of American and British manhood and Spar Edgewood, the inventor-athlete-businessman, and Lord Warburton, the nobleman- Laotian-reformer.
But she marries neither and is instead entranced by Madame Merle, a kind of witch??an evil sorceress of society and good manners??who marries her off to the “sterile dilettante,” as Ralph Touched puts it, Gilbert Summons, an ogre of high aesthetics, who in the end does not find Isabella beauty up to the mark. This story is beauty and the beast in its most primitive form: the princess enslaved by a monster. But the monster in The Portrait of a Lady is a monster of aesthetics; Summons is a painter, a collector of fine things, a disparager of vulgarity.
And Isabel is o ordinary beauty: She has beauty based in character, in potentiality, in innocence, and in liberty of mind??in her being an American and a girl. As the story begins, Isabel, resolved to determine her own fate, has turned down two eligible suitors. Her cousin, who is dying of tuberculosis, secretly gives her an inheritance so that she can remain independent and fulfill a grand destiny, but the fortune only leads her to make a tragic choice and marry Gilbert Summons, an American expatriate who lives in Florence.
Outwardly charming and cultivated, but fundamentally cold and cruel, Summons only brings heartbreak and ruin to Isabella life. Yet she survives as she begins to realize that true freedom nearness living with her choices and their consequences. About the major themes Sesame’s first idea for The Portrait of a Lady was simple: a young American woman confronting her destiny, whatever it might be. Only then did he begin to form a plot to bring out the character of his central figure.
This was the uncompromising story of the free-spirited Isabel losing her freedom??despite (or because of) suddenly coming into a great deal of money??and getting “ground in the very mill of the conventional. ” It is a rather existentialist novel, as Isabel is very committed to living with the uniqueness of her choice with integrity but also a sort of stubbornness. The richness of The Portrait is hardly exhausted by a review of Isabella character.
The novel exhibits a huge panorama of trans-Atlantic life, a far larger canvas than any James had previously painted. This moneyed world appears charming and leisurely but proves to be plagued with treachery, deceit, and suffering. Literary significance & criticism The Portrait of a Lady received critical acclaim since its first publication in the pages of The Atlantic Monthly, and it remains the most popular of Sesame’s longer fictions.
Contemporary critics recognized that James had pushed the analysis of human consciousness and motivation to new levels, particularly in such passages as the famous Chapter 42, where Isabel meditates deep into the night about her marriage and the trap she seems to have fallen into. James made an in-depth account of Isabella deepest terrors in his preface to the New York Edition of the novel. More recent criticism has come at the novel from feminist. In particular, Isabella final return to Summons has fascinated critics, who have debated whether James sufficiently Justifies this seemingly paradoxical rejection of freedom.
One interpretation is that Isabel not only feels as honor-bound to the promise she has made to stepdaughter Pansy as she does to Summons, but also considers that the scene her “unacceptable” trip to England will create with Summons will leave her in a more Justifiable position to abandon her dreadful marriage. The extensive revisions James made for the 1908 New York Edition have generally been accepted as improvements, unlike the changes in other texts, such as The American or Redbrick Hudson. The revision of the final scene between Isabel and Edgewood has been especially applauded.
As Edward Hackneyed noted, James “makes it as clear as any odder novelist could make it by using all the four-letter words in the dictionary that Isabel has been roused as never before in her life, roused in the true sense perhaps for the first time in her life. ” Sesame’s verbal magic allowed him to both obey and evade the restrictive conventions of his day for the treatment of sexuality in literature. Critic Alfred Haberdasher has claimed that the main character of Portrait was inspired by Christie Archer, the protagonist from Anne Manicure Crane’s novel, Reginald Archer (1871).
Crane (1838-1872) may have influenced James, who Haberdasher claimed was interested in Crane’s female characters. In the preface to the New York Edition of the novel, James referred to several of George Elite’s female protagonists as possible influences on the Portrait. Haberdasher questions this claim and quotes others as doing the same. Conclusion As the historical background and the person mentioned above, we can easily conclude that the age Isabel lived in caused her tragedy. Generally speaking, it was mostly because of her narcissistic personality which was formed from her maternal absence.
In addition, her pursuit for liberty, independence and acknowledgment determined her refusal of Lord Warburton and Gasper Edgewood, and determined re acceptance of Gilbert Summons. Because Gilbert Summons could give her maternal care, she rationally put herself in the marriage. However when we have a look at the historical background and the environment she had lived in, we will know that it was not herself led her disaster marriage. Her tragedy presented the strong social senses at that time. That is to say, women were defined submissiveness, domestic and have less power.