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Themes

Little Words, Big Ideas

Independence

It turns out that Cyndi Lauper’s claim that girls just wanna have fun is totally wrong. What girls – rather, women – just want in this novel is actually independence and the freed...

Identity

Who am I? Who are you? Who’s that guy over there? Who are we all? These are some of the fundamental questions that plague us all daily. They also plague the characters of Portrait of a Lady,...

Contrasting Regions

In this day and age, we may think we know all too well what constitutes the American character. However, in the 1870s, America was a mere baby of a nation at one hundred years, and its citizens wer...

Women and Femininity

The Portrait of a Lady is not simply the portrait of one single woman – instead, it reveals to us a whole range of different women, all of whom are emblematic of their time, the late nineteen...

Possession

How much can one person truly possess another? If you ask Gilbert Osmond, the domineering villain of Portrait of a Lady, he’d probably tell you that all relationships are defined as possessor...

Suffering

"Suffering" is an interesting concept. It can mean any number of different things to different people; in Portrait of a Lady, we see many of these different incarnations brought to life. We are pre...

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 t...

Wealth

What exactly does money buy? Different people in Portrait of a Lady might give you different answers. Security? Independence? Beauty? Dare we say – happiness? Or, perhaps, none of the above?...

Love

There’s nothing romantic about love in this book. Seriously. If we were more cynical, we might say that this is the most realistic element of Portrait of a Lady: love is never obvious, nor is...

Lies and Deceit

Honesty is kind of a problem in this book. Some people are just too honest, while others aren’t honest enough. There’s a certain innate untruthfulness about the whole society that James...

Men and Masculinity

Just as Portrait of a Lady reveals a wide spectrum of womanhood, so, too, does it show us a fascinating parade of different types of men. From the super-masculine to the gently feminized, James pre...
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