Henry James writings, particularly ‘The Portrait of a Lady’

I read this book out of interest for another Henry James piece, liking Daisy Miller so much. I found that this book, as in Daisy Miller, has a female point of interest throughout. Isabel Archer is a young American girl brought to Europe after her father has died in America. Isabel is an independent girl, easily noticed by many others in her circle. I felt that Isabel was a woman in her time, in that she took notice of things that she wouldn’t have without certain without the opportunities she was given. In America she would have see and done other things, but in Europe she saw so much opportunity. I like the carefree attitude she had, but with the regard for her elders and common courtesy. The example in the book about being a proper young lady when it was not looked at very well that she stay up ‘alone’ with her cousin and another young man. She had asked her aunt to help her and tell her when she is doing, or about to do something saw as improper. I admired that. I think nowadays young women would revolt against proper if it meant something they did not wish to do.

Henry James’ writing was interesting to me in that he gave these characters a real life, with real life struggles and even consequences. I enjoy reading his work, very much like I enjoy watching and reading Jane Austen pieces as well. The time period is interesting to me and what is proper of a lady. That is a large piece of the world I do not understand. I am very much happy to see a woman and a man as equals. Of course there are things in society that women don’t do, or just aren’t a part of, but I am not one to be against that. What’s else interesting in the reading of ‘The Portrait of a Lady’ is that Isabel fell to something she would have been totally against if she had known the creature from another experience. The man she married was awful, and yet she married him with the idea that she was happy and that he was wonderful. He was exactly the type of man that, I think, kept her from getting married at all in the beginning. But, yet as a woman she felt the obligation to follow her husbands interests and thoughts, even though she was very much against them.

Henry James initially describes a character as they enter the piece, but throws bits and pieces out as the book progresses to give the reader more to chew as they read. I like this strategy because it keeps the reader interested in what is going to happen or become of their favorite/least favorite character of the piece. The best is that all while the book the reader is told that Pansy’s mother has died and that she was raised by Mr. Osmond her entire life along with the convent. Pansy is a quiet girl, listens to her father, in fact obeys her father’s every wish. She does not want to disappoint father by doing anything he has forbidden. I find it interesting it is not until almost the very end of the book that we find out that Pansy is the daughter of Mrs. Merle and Mr. Osmond, during a 7-8 year affair. This is a character that James does not reveal much about, Mrs. Merle, only that she is a widow and a friend of Mrs. Touchett. I feel this information was key to the entire plot of the book, because knowing such things may have swayed the decision of Isabel to even be aquanted with either Mr. Osmond or Mrs. Merle in a friendly fashion.

I see a character transition of Isabel, from a bright young vibrant adventurous lady, to a wife and mother to Pansy, with worries and responsibilities. Throughout the reading several characters note on how she has ‘changed’, which I don’t think she sees herself, until the day with her cousin when he is dying. Until that day, she knows she has made a terrible decision and will live with it, but does not tell