The Portrait of a Lady
by Henry James
The Portrait of a Lady Theme of Pride
Well, we all know what pride supposedly goeth before, so let’s not even go there. Yes, there is a fall in this book, and, yes, pride is largely responsible for it. However, that’s not the whole story. There’s an interestingly ambiguous attitude towards pride in Portrait of a Lady – sometimes it’s a sin, but sometimes it’s a virtue. Our protagonist is a very proud young lady, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that she’s just an arrogant little you-know-what. Her pride certainly causes her to make mistakes, but, in the end, it also gives her a greater sense of responsibility for those same mistakes.
Questions About Pride
- Can Isabel’s pride be defined as either a positive or negative quality?
- Do you think Isabel would be happier if her pride didn’t get in the way?
- Is Isabel’s pride the only thing that makes her return to Osmond?
- Is Isabel’s pride in her character justified?
Chew on This
At times, Isabel uses her famous pride as a cover-up for her fear of Osmond.
Isabel’s pride is the only unchanging element of her character.