Study Guide

The Portrait of a Lady Writing Style

By Henry James

Writing Style

Descriptive, detailed, and frank

The writing of Henry James is famously descriptive, and this novel is no exception to the rule. People, places, relationships, feelings – basically, everything gets the patented Henry James Super Heavy Detail Treatment. This creates a rich, very real-feeling world, through which we can easily imagine our characters moving. However, despite the long, long passages of description (and long, long paragraphs in general), James still manages to come off as fresh, frank, and – more often than not – quite funny. His sense of humor often emerges from the details, and James knows how to walk the fine line between lyrical and boring by balancing it out with candor. His dialogue is also pricelessly funny at times, and always has the zingy feel of quick, real-life back and forth.