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Limitations in The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James

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Limitations in The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James by Cristina Nuta -

Henry James'The Portrait of a Lady' is a novel about life-choices. It is a meditation on the theme of marriage and whether there is life outside of marriage. The protagonist, Isabel Archer, sets out to find out and ends up throwing her life away on the first person she meets outside her sheltered world. Isabel chooses to marry someone she doesn't understand, because he fascinates her. When she finally does come to understand him and to despise him for it, she doesn't show the will-power to leave.

In what concerns the limitations of the novel, Isabel Archer must have the opportunity to develop freely to the limits of her own capacity. She is seen as a person who has great potential, but she does not have the freedom which would allow her to develop her own innate qualities. Therefore, almost all the scenes and actions of the novel are designed to hinder or to bring to completion this chance for Isabel to attain her full capacity. As a result, the novel progresses at a slow pace. What we get are commentaries on what has just happened and on Isabel's ideas, reactions and actions.

The action of the novel slowly grows, stroke by stroke, as touches are added to bring both highlights and shadows, until Isabel stands at the end of the novel as a woman whose experiences have brought her excitement, joy, pain and knowledge, and have given her an enduring beauty and dignity. She grew from James' original 'conception of a certain young woman confronting her destiny'. He visualized her as 'an intelligent but presumptuous girl', who would yet 'be complex' and be offered a series of opportunities for free choice in the determination of the destiny.

Consequently, the reader must constantly be on the look out to connect, interpret and place in the proper perspective every item of information received about Isabel Archer. In a way, her portrait is something every reader will have to draw for themselves.

In conclusion, by the end of his novel, Henry James has probed and examined every moral, ethical and psychological aspect of the central character, and the reader has found out about the views of different characters regarding the same subject.
Limitations in The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James written by Cristina Nuta for FamousWhy.com
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Tags: limitations, the portrait of a lady, henry james, novel, isabel archer



Category: Education  - ( Education Archive)

Date Added: 27 February '07


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