The Portrait of a Lady
by Henry James
The Portrait of a Lady Independence Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
It was one of her theories that Isabel Archer was very fortunate in being independent, and that she ought to make some very enlightened use of that state. She never called it the state of solitude, much less of singleness; she thought such descriptions weak, and, besides, her sister Lily constantly urged her to come and abide. (6.2)
Isabel has many ideas about herself and ponders her many qualities often. Her independence is something of a valuable, intriguing mystery to her – she’s not sure what being an independent woman exactly entails, but she is confident that it ought to be taken advantage of.
"I shall always tell you," her aunt answered, "whenever I see you taking what seems to me too much liberty."
"Pray do; but I don't say I shall always think your remonstrance just."
"Very likely not. You're too fond of your own ways."
"Yes, I think I'm very fond of them. But I always want to know the things one shouldn't do."
"So as to do them?" asked her aunt.
"So as to choose," said Isabel. (7.16)
This sums Isabel up in a nutshell: she loves to know what society demands, and then have the choice between her desires and the world’s expectations. Her aunt sees Isabel’s rebellious tendencies, which encourage her to do things her own way.
"Don’t think me unkind if I say it’s just that – being out of your sight – that I like. If you were in the same place I should feel you were watching me, and I don’t like that – I like my liberty too much. If there’s a thing in the world I’m fond of," she went on with a slight recurrence of grandeur, "it’s my personal independence." (16.24)
Caspar Goodwood’s fervent declarations of love just make Isabel feel stifled – she worries that, if they’re ever together, even just in the same city, he’ll make her feel limited or restricted.