The Portrait of a Lady
by Henry James
The Portrait of a Lady Possession Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
[Osmond’s] egotism had never taken the crude form of desiring a dull wife; this lady’s intelligence was to be a silver plate, not an earthen one – a plate that he might heap up with ripe fruits, to which it would give a decorative value, so that talk might become for him a sort of served dessert. He found the silver quality in this perfection in Isabel; he could tap her imagination with his knuckle and make it ring. (35.2)
Osmond is the pickiest collector out there – he won’t be happy with just a beautiful-but-stupid trophy wife, and instead seeks a woman who is both ornamental and intelligent, the ultimate collector’s item.
The real offence, as she ultimately perceived, was her having a mind of her own at all. Her mind was to be his – attached to his own like a small garden-plot to a deer-park. He would rake the soil gently and water the flowers; he would weed the beds and gather an occasional nosegay. It would be a pretty piece of property for a proprietor already far-reaching. (42.7)
Osmond assumed that Isabel’s mind would become a part of his upon their marriage, and that he could control every aspect of her identity just as he arranges objects or cultivates flowers (like Pansy).