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The Portrait of a Lady

The Portrait of a Lady

by Henry James

Protagonist

Character Role Analysis

Isabel Archer

Well, this novel is indeed a very extensive portrait of a lady – and, as Isabel is that lady, she’s the obvious protagonist. The entire book is structured around Isabel Archer and all the decisions she makes –the good, the bad, and the ugly. James comes straight out and un-ironically calls her our heroine quite frequently, which leaves no doubt in our minds about her position in the book. Isabel is certainly deserving of this attention; she’s a fascinating character, and we, as readers, find ourselves just as intrigued by her as the other characters do. At times, it even seems as though Isabel is the only character in the book, and the other people that populate her world are also readers, simply waiting to see what she will do.


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