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The Portrait of a Lady

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)

Quote #1

If his cousin were to be nothing more than an entertainment to him, Ralph was conscious she was an entertainment of a high order. "A character like that," he said to himself – "a real little passionate force to see at play is the finest thing in nature. It's finer than the finest work of art – than a Greek bas-relief, than a great Titian, than a Gothic cathedral. It's very pleasant to be so well treated where one had least looked for it. I had never been more blue, more bored, than for a week before she came; I had never expected less that anything pleasant would happen. Suddenly I receive a Titian, by the post, to hang on my wall – a Greek bas-relief to stick over my chimney-piece. The key of a beautiful edifice is thrust into my hand, and I'm told to walk in and admire. My poor boy, you've been sadly ungrateful, and now you had better keep very quiet and never grumble again." (7.6)

Ralph sees Isabel’s arrival as an incredible gift, as though he’s received a valuable masterpiece to care for. His attitude towards possession is one of loving admiration.

Quote #2

In so far as the indefinable had an influence upon Isabel's behaviour at this juncture, it was not the conception, even unformulated, of a union with Caspar Goodwood; for however she might have resisted conquest at her English suitor's large quiet hands she was at least as far removed from the disposition to let the young man from Boston take positive possession of her. The sentiment in which she sought refuge after reading his letter was a critical view of his having come abroad; for it was part of the influence he had upon her that he seemed to deprive her of the sense of freedom. (13.8)

The idea of any marriage, whether to Lord Warburton or Caspar Goodwood, rankles Isabel, who looks at matrimony as possession. She’s disinclined to allow Caspar to charge across the ocean and just claim her as his own.

Quote #3

She dropped, but then she broke out. "What good do you expect to get by insisting?"

"The good of not losing you."

"You've no right to talk of losing what's not yours." (16.11)

Ooh, burn. Caspar Goodwood gets a little too sassy with Isabel, and we find that she can bite back. She never wants to be the possession of any man.

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