Study Guide

The Portrait of a Lady Pride

By Henry James


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 the whole story. There’s an interestingly ambiguous attitude towards pride in Portrait of a Lady – sometimes it’s a sin, but sometimes it’s a virtue. Our protagonist is a very proud young lady, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that she’s just an arrogant little you-know-what. Her pride certainly causes her to make mistakes, but, in the end, it also gives her a greater sense of responsibility for those same mistakes.

Questions About Pride

  1. Can Isabel’s pride be defined as either a positive or negative quality?
  2. Do you think Isabel would be happier if her pride didn’t get in the way?
  3. Is Isabel’s pride the only thing that makes her return to Osmond?
  4. Is Isabel’s pride in her character justified?

Chew on This

At times, Isabel uses her famous pride as a cover-up for her fear of Osmond.

Isabel’s pride is the only unchanging element of her character.