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The Portrait of a Lady

The Portrait of a Lady


by Henry James

The Portrait of a Lady Women and Femininity Quotes

How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)

Quote #7

"I'm glad they've taught you to obey," said Madame Merle. "That's what good little girls should do."

"Oh yes, I obey very well," cried Pansy with soft eagerness, almost with boastfulness, as if she had been speaking of her piano-playing. And then she gave a faint, just audible sigh. (22.27)

Pansy’s obedience is something she’s proud of – but, at the same time, she’s not entirely happy about it.

Quote #8

Isabel had never seen a little person of this pattern; American girls were very different – different too were the maidens of England. Pansy was so formed and finished for her tiny place in the world, and yet in imagination, as one could see, so innocent and infantine. She sat on the sofa by Isabel; she wore a small grenadine mantle and a pair of the useful gloves that Madame Merle had given her – little grey gloves with a single button. She was like a sheet of blank paper – the ideal jeune fille [young girl] of foreign fiction. Isabel hoped that so fair and smooth a page would be covered with an edifying text. (26.7)

Pansy is, as her name implies, a carefully cultivated, tender little flower. She doesn’t seem to come from any real place in the world, and Isabel can only think of her as a character in a French novel. There’s something otherworldly about her.

Quote #9

It struck her second visitor that Miss Archer had, in operatic conditions, a radiance, even a slight exaltation; as she was, however, at all times a keenly-glancing, quickly-moving, completely animated young woman, he may have been mistaken on this point. Her talk with him moreover pointed to presence of mind; it expressed a kindness so ingenious and deliberate as to indicate that she was in undisturbed possession of her faculties. Poor Lord Warburton had moments of bewilderment. She had discouraged him, formally, as much as a woman could; what business had she then with such arts and such felicities, above all with such tones of reparation--preparation? Her voice had tricks of sweetness, but why play them on him? (28.3)

Unfortunate Lord Warburton. The poor guy is still head-over-heels in love with Isabel, and seeing her charming feminine wiles just confuses him. She can’t control how appealing she is; she’s just trying to be nice, but he thinks that she might be playing tricks on him.

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