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)
"Do you know where you're drifting?" Henrietta pursued, holding out her bonnet delicately. "No, I haven't the least idea, and I find it very pleasant not to know. A swift carriage, of a dark night, rattling with four horses over roads that one can't see – that's my idea of happiness." (17.5)
Isabel’s dreams are still quite naïve and romantic at this point – she just wants to let herself go and see where the road takes her.
Ralph leaned back in his chair with folded arms; his eyes were fixed for some time in meditation. At last, with the air of a man fairly mustering courage, "I take a great interest in my cousin," he said, "but not the sort of interest you desire. I shall not live many years; but I hope I shall live long enough to see what she does with herself. She's entirely independent of me; I can exercise very little influence upon her life. But I should like to do something for her." (18.25)
Ralph is intrigued by Isabel’s sense of potential. He doesn’t want to tie her down by attempting to marry her (or by marrying her off to anyone else); instead, he wishes to furnish her with further opportunities to express herself and her ideas.
"I had treated myself to a charming vision of your future," Ralph observed… "I had amused myself with planning out a high destiny for you. There was to be nothing of this sort in it. You were not to come down so easily or so soon."
"Come down, you say?"
"Well, that renders my sense of what has happened to you. 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 straight you drop to the ground. It hurts me," said Ralph audaciously, "hurts me as if I had fallen myself!" (34.10)
Isabel’s free-flying period was thrilling to watch, and Ralph admits that he’d hoped that she’d continue in that vein. However, the sense that Osmond has brought her down makes him feel as though the independent and wild nature of her character has been ruined.