The Portrait of a Lady by Henry JamesWhen 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, Isabels tale of love and betrayal still resonates with modern audiences.
PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE Cast and Crew Q&A - TIFF 2019
The novel opens with an American son and father, Ralph and Mr. Touchett, and one English man, Lord Warburton , sitting in a garden belonging to a manor called Gardencourt in England. They discuss the great hope of the future, and they believe it lies in the women of their time. They declare that a change is coming. Isabel Archer , the main subject of the novel, then appears on the horizon.
H enry James's great, humane masterpiece, The Portrait of a Lady , the story of a young, spirited American woman "affronting her destiny", is many readers' favourite of his books. All his critics and biographers put it at the centre of his life and work. It is his turning-point. From being a popular and promising author specialising in Americans in Europe Daisy Miller , The Europeans , The American , he became an important, renowned figure, acknowledged as a "master" of consciousness, cultural perceptions, humour, subtlety and depth. But Portrait can also be seen as a point of no return. After that came the harsh, unpopular novels of social analysis The Bostonians , The Princess Casamassima , the ill-fated involvement with the theatre, the awkward, darkly complex novels of the s What Maisie Knew , The Awkward Age , the epic, inward-looking subtleties of the mighty late works, and the financial catastrophe of the New York edition. Isabel Archer starts out full of hope, independence and ambition, and becomes "ground in the mill", entrapped and disillusioned.
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The first time I read it, I was impatient. I was unschooled in the art of literature.
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It was indisputably the pivot on which his fiction turned toward the problem that would absorb him for the rest of his life, the problem of consciousness. It is the novel that defined psychological interiority as drama, forever changing our ideas about what fiction can do. Unearthing the roots of a classic novel is a comparatively novel way for the critic to reach out for the reasons of our own interests, to explore the education of our imaginative life.
Henry James was an established author when The Portrait of a Lady was published. The novel was first published serially in and , appearing in Macmillan's Magazine in England and in Atlantic in the United States. The first book edition was published in The Portrait of a Lady was widely, and mostly favorably, reviewed. Some reviewers recognized it immediately as James's most important novel thus far, and a few called it a masterpiece. Both of these opinions have been affirmed as time has passed. Many scholars consider The Portrait of a Lady one of the greatest novels in modern literature.