Just as Portrait of a Lady reveals a wide spectrum of womanhood, so, too, does it show us a fascinating parade of different types of men. From the super-masculine to the gently feminized, James presents us with a set of male characters that are all as different as can be. He also asks us to re-evaluate what we think we know about men and women. In this novel, we see a world not so very different than our own, in which gender roles are just beginning to grow less concrete.
Masculinity is inextricably tied to nationalism in characters such as Caspar Goodwood and Lord Warburton, while Ralph Touchett, Edward Rosier, and Gilbert Osmond – whose national ties are ambiguous at best – are perceived as less masculine.
The adoption of masculine traits by female characters such as Henrietta Stackpole and Isabel Archer makes it less necessary for men to maintain these characteristics themselves.