The Portrait of a Lady

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The Portrait of a Lady

The Portrait of a Lady

The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James portrays that finding freedom is not always as urgent as honoring responsibility.

“You seemed to me to be soaring far up in the blue - to be sailing in the bright light, over the heads of men. Suddenly someone tosses up a faded rosebud - a missile that should never have reached you - and down you drop to the ground.” This quote represents Isabel's decision to give her freedom away in order to marry a man she didn't love. Isabel now had responsibilities to withhold and fulfill instead of quenching her desire for independence and ultimately freedom. The picture of the bride sitting in the rain represents Isabel losing her freedom for the fatal entrapment of her marriage.

“She envied Ralph his dying, for if one were thinking of rest that was the most perfect of all. To cease utterly, to give it all up and not know anything more - this idea was as sweet as a vision of a cool bath in a marble tank, in a darkened chamber, in a hot land. ... but Isabel recognized, as it passed before her eyes, the quick vague shadow of a long future. She should never escape; she should last to the end" (497). After escaping the grasp of Osmond, Isabel goes to see her beloved friend Ralph on his death bed. She then wishes she would die too, yet soon after realizes her duty and that she will live with it forever. She returns to Europe and Osmond with a new understanding of her responsibility. This quote shows Isabel embracing her freedom and being with Ralph against Osmond's wishes, but it also shows her neglectful ways towards her responsibilities.

“It's not my fate to give up--I know it can't be.”When Isabel struggles with the fact that she must give up her freedom at first she is appalled by the thought. The only thing that is more important to Isabel then anything is her freedom. With her path set towards returning to Osmond for the rest of her life Isabel must accept the fact that her fate is to forever be tied to a man who does not love her, in a country where she does not belong. This picture represents Isabel giving up and allowing herself to sink into her responsibility

The song shown in the video chosen represents Isabel’s freedom with the "angels". At first the artist sings about how the angels can't be given up on and that they are all she needs. However nearing the end of the song it is no long about freedom the "angels" anymore. This song captures Isabel at the end of the book and how she realizes that her duty is no longer to her freedom and independence, but to her responsibilities as a person. She had finally found a way to regain her freedom but she decided to honor her responsibilities instead.

The novel The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James is the intense story of freedom versus responsibility. Throughout the novel the intriguing Isabel Archer struggles with sacrificing her freedom for the good of her responsibilities. Whether she marries one suitor or the other, her independence always seems to hinder her choice. After giving away her freedom in order to please her social duty Isabel falls into the trap of marriage. As her marriage withers away her independence still stands strong even though her freedom is lost. She still obtains her own opinions, much to her husband’s discontent. Being treated like she is nothing Isabel continues to stay in her relationship to protect her social standing and fulfill her social duties, now aware that her marriage occurred purely for the need of money. Before she wed the man Gilbert Osmond he had a child with his past wife, his daughters name is Pansy. Isabel may not be Pansy's mother but she is all the young girl has. After learning of how Pansy fancies a young artist Edward Rosier Isabel encourages Pansy to love him going against her father’s wishes. This angers Osmond greatly as well as Isabel's close friend Madame Merle. Although Isabel has angered both her husband and her best friend, when she learns about their past together she is disgusted and she flees Europe. While awaiting the passing of an old friend and receiving a proposal that could save her from her toxic marriage Isabel decides that her responsibility must come before her freedom and she returns to Europe once again where she lives on. Isabel and her choices symbolize the struggle between finding freedom and honoring responsibility no matter what the cost is.


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