The Portrait of a Lady
Contrasting Regions Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
"… I like the great country stretching away beyond the rivers and across the prairies, blooming and smiling and spreading till it stops at the green Pacific! A strong, sweet, fresh odour seems to rise from it, and Henrietta – pardon my simile – has something of that odour in her garments."
Isabel blushed a little as she concluded this speech, and the blush, together with the momentary ardour she had thrown into it, was so becoming to her that Ralph stood smiling at her for a moment after she had ceased speaking. "I’m not sure the Pacific’s so green as that," he said; "but you’re a young woman of imagination. Henrietta, however, does smell of the Future – it almost knocks one down!" (10.22-23)
Isabel, despite all of her interest in Europe, is American at her core – and she loves that Henrietta reminds her of their country. To Ralph, whose American-ness has faded almost beyond recognition, the smell of the country is also the smell of the future – and to his old world sensibilities, it’s daunting.
"That doesn't make him my companion. Besides, he's an Englishman."
"And pray isn't an Englishman a human being?" Isabel asked.
"Oh, those people? They're not of my humanity, and I don't care what becomes of them." (16.17)
Wow, Caspar – that’s way harsh. The blunt young man from Boston has no interest in sympathizing with Lord Warburton, since, as he sees it, Englishmen and Americans have nothing in common.
"You should live in your own land; whatever it may be you have your natural place there. If we're not good Americans we're certainly poor Europeans; we've no natural place here. We're mere parasites, crawling over the surface; we haven't our feet in the soil. At least one can know it and not have illusions." (19.12)
Interestingly, even Madame Merle, the inveterate European-American, believes that Americans have no place in the old world; they’re unrooted, unnatural, and unwelcome there. Perhaps her success in Europe stems from the fact that she recognizes all of this.