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The Portrait of a Lady

The Portrait of a Lady

by Henry James

Suffering Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #7

Suffering, with Isabel, was an active condition; it was not a chill, a stupor, a despair; it was a passion of thought, of speculation, of response to every pressure. She flattered herself that she had kept her failing faith to herself, however, – that no one suspected it but Osmond. Oh, he knew it, and there were times when she thought he enjoyed it. It had come gradually – it was not till the first year of their life together, so admirably intimate at first, had closed that she had taken the alarm. Then the shadows had begun to gather; it was as if Osmond deliberately, almost malignantly, had put the lights out one by one. The dusk at first was vague and thin and she could still see her way in it. But it steadily deepened, and if now and again it had occasionally lifted there were certain corners of her prospect that were impenetrably black. (42.2)

Isabel’s miserable marriage puts her into a horribly active stage of suffering, and, instead of blocking it out, she feels it at every moment. It occurs to her that Osmond intentionally brought this spiritual darkness upon her.

Quote #8

After he had left her she went, the first thing, and lifted from the mantel-shelf the attenuated coffee-cup in which he had mentioned the existence of a crack; but she looked at it rather abstractedly. "Have I been so vile all for nothing?" she vaguely wailed. (49.26)

Madame Merle’s weakness – the hairline crack in her hard exterior – is finally revealed. We learn that she does indeed suffer greatly, and that she knows the extent of her wrongdoing.

Quote #9

"Ah, I must see Ralph!" Isabel wailed; not in resentment, not in the quick passion her companion had looked for; but in a tone of far-reaching, infinite sadness. (51.38)

The horror of Countess Gemini’s revelation hits Isabel with an unpredictable, new kind of sadness. Her suffering now seems infinite and hopeless.

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