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Archived Group Reads 2011 > The Portrait of a Lady: Ch 1-10

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message 1: by Silver (new)

Silver The Portrait of a Lady is broken up into 2 volumes, so I will begin by posting the chapters of the first volume, and as the discussion progresses I will begin to add the chapter sections for volume 2.

While it is an understood risk that spoilers may be revealed in each of the posted chapter sections, it is appreciated if the hide spoiler option is used for the revealing of any major spoilers.


message 2: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1418 comments I think the way that Isabel Archer is introduced into the story is very relevant. And also the setting that is so beautifully described is also important in perceptions of this story. This may really just be my way of making a prelude to future comments, rather than a real comment here, but I am adding it as food for thought as we all read along.


message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

Hey, I just meant to say that I've just started the book today (for the moment just read Chapter 1) but that I'm quite excited about the book and discussion


message 4: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1418 comments Wonderful Antia -- see you soon then :)


message 5: by Silver (new)

Silver One of the things that I enjoy about the writing of James is his perceptions of Americans and Europeans, and the way in which he brings in the assumptions that both Europeans have for Americans, and Americans have for Europeans, and he does make fun a bit of those stereotypes which existed at that time.

I think it is particularly interesting how American woman are perceived, particularly since I think some of those same presumptions still very much exist today.

The way in which Isabel arrives and is introduced is a way of sort of further supporting those ideas, as they had just been joking about the independence of the sisters, and just what was meant by the word independence, when lo and behold Isobel appears, walking in unaccompanied and completely on her own. I think that the informalness of her introduction provides a contrast to the examples of that British propriety and decorum of manners which is so often seen in many British Victorian novels.

On an interesting side note I had an end note in my book which states that Miss Archers name is intended to be an allusion to Diana/Artemis, the goddess of the hunt, who is also known for her chastity.


message 6: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1418 comments I didn't notice that note Silver, but that is interesting about Diana. In a look-up, I also saw Diana associated with inaccessibility, so these are all key things we may want to keep in mind for later chapters too.

And of course, we are introduced by her first through the telegram - the Touchett men are virtually unaware of her existence, so they have a very clean slate about this young woman (which I think is a big key to Henry James' set up here).

So much of the story is about perception -- how she is perceived, she is perceived by Mrs. Touchett and described a certain way. From there, we have this idea of "independence" -- a central focus of this story.

Yes, there is fun, or I would call irony, in these meetings of the Americans and Europeans -- although the irony for me is that many of these characters are simply Americans themselves living in Europe. So much will come to play over that too I think.


message 7: by Silver (new)

Silver I have to say I found it kind of strange that Mr. Touchett had not seen his wife for a year, and she did not even have any idea about his current condition. And than after not seeing her husband for a whole year, she does not seem very eager to see him but goes straight up to her room.


message 8: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1418 comments I think the Touchett relationship may be another of the author's comments within the theme of "independence." In other words, what was Mrs. Touchett's standard? What was her qualification for determining Isabel's characteristics, such as independence?

I read from the novel something about family and intimacy also. I will have to wait to state more about that later, but am keeping an eye on the interplay and understanding between members of this family.


message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

I'm starting chapter 4 today. I know some people on previous threads has said James was "too wordy" and complained about the long parragraphs, but I'm loving it, specially the descriptions of the house and gentlemen in chapter 1.
I also thought Mrs Touchett is quite funny. I liked the conversation between her and Isabel in chapter 3. I do wonder if the reference to Mr & Mrs Touchett's unhappy marriage and practical separation will be a constant theme of the book


message 10: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1418 comments Yes, comments like those you mentioned about Henry James are simply a matter of opinion -- just as we all have our favorite authors and favorite writing styles. I agree that his writing has had a very pleasant flow.


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) I, also, have enjoyed what I have read, and do agree with all that has been said. I really think that Mrs. Touchett is like her niece and does see that in her so hence likes her. I also loved the effect Isabella had on the men she has come in contact with. She is, as Silver said so well, such an American girl, free, independent, and inquisitive. I really like her character and feel that she will certainly give those staid British a run for their money.

Mr Touchett seems like an admirable character so we don't quite know why Mrs. B. has been so stand offish.

Initially reading the preface I was a bit off set by the wordiness of James, but seem now to think that there is nice balance between the long and short (dialogue type) statements.


message 12: by [deleted user] (new)

I think it might be too early for me to "judge" the characters, but even if I found Mrs Touchett quite funny to read.. or at least I found James' initial portrait of her ironical. I don't think she's a good person. The idea of just meeting Isabel and deciding to pick her up to Europe shows a whimsical character.. or at least that's my first impression.


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Anita, She does seem to get her way always, doesn't she. A very formidable woman I think.


message 14: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1418 comments Yes, James does set Mrs. Touchett out as a peculiar character. And you would have to be on the extreme to be that aloof from your own family. That why it is beginning to feel that the story is a statement about family, as well as other themes.

And she seems to feel some broad type of responsibility for Isabel. There were disagreements between Mrs. T and Mr. Archer, so in a sense Isabel and siblings were abandoned by this side of the family until now. Is Mrs. T planning to make true reparations for this?


message 15: by [deleted user] (last edited Mar 02, 2011 02:06PM) (new)

Just finished reading chapter 5. I've really enjoyed the insight on Isabel and Ralph's personalities. It sounded to me like they are keen spirits. I loved the long detailed descriptions of their education. Some lines specially called my attention: in Chapter 4 (page 47 in Oxford Classics Edition) Mr Ludlow says "Well, I don't like originals; I like translations ... Isabel's written in a foreign tongue. I can't make her out"
Also in Chapter 5 (page 57), about Ralph: "Living as he now lived was like reading a good book in a poor translation - a meagre entertainment for a young man who felt that he might have been an excellent linguistic"
Might be James' intention to make these two chapters a parallel introduction of similar characters?
I also found interesting the idea of experience as way to reach knowledge instead of the books Isabel reads


message 16: by Lauri (new)

Lauri | 56 comments I have only read the first chapter so far, but one of the things that caught my interest was how Mr. Touchett's perception and thoughts toward his home and surroundings changed. He took no notice of them when he was fresh from America, and now he appreciates them beyond measure. Maybe this could be one of the stereotypes Silver mentions above...Americans are notable for not having a proper appreciation of nature, architecture etc. in comparison to a European?


message 17: by Silver (new)

Silver SarahC wrote: "Yes, James does set Mrs. Touchett out as a peculiar character. And you would have to be on the extreme to be that aloof from your own family. That why it is beginning to feel that the story is a s..."

I quite enjoy the eccentricity of Mrs. Touchett. She is indeed a very amusing character, but she is also I think quite a complex one in many ways. I find her relationship as well as her familial bonds to be rather interesting.

Though she and her husband do not seem to love each other, at least not in a particularly passionate, romantic way, for there is displayed thus far a lack of affection between them, in addition to the fact that they live separated from each other, it seems to me that there is an contentment/acceptance between them in the nature of their relationship.

Unlike so many Victorian novels in which marriages often result in tragic misery, and most particularly for the women, in this case Mr. Touchett consented to give his wife her freedom, instead of keeping her trapped within that role of domesticity, she is allowed to explore her own interests and pursuits and there does not seem to be a feeling of resentment, bitterness, or anger between them.

It is also interesting that in spite of the nature of her relationship with her husband, and the falling out she had with her brother-in-law on account of taking something he said quite literally, she does still feel a since of responsibility towards family bonds.

Though she is estranged from her family, she is not uncaring towards them at least it does not seem to be.

As Sara mentioned above the idea of "independence" and it seems particularly in relation to women, is a very important theme within this book, and considering the different way it is perceived and expressed through difference characters. Also considering the different types of independence which all seem to be address in various ways within this book.

There is economic independence, intellectual independence, personal/physical independence (such as ones actions, behaviors, as Mrs. Touchett going off to live in Florence)


message 18: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments Silver wrote: "I have to say I found it kind of strange that Mr. Touchett had not seen his wife for a year, and she did not even have any idea about his current condition. And than after not seeing her husband fo..."

I found this unusual for the era of the novel, and for an American couple. I would have understood it for an English couple a hundred or two hundred years previously when divorce was impossible and there were women who lived permanently apart from their husbands, but I'm a bit surprised, as you are, to find it here.


message 19: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments Antía wrote: "I'm starting chapter 4 today. I know some people on previous threads has said James was "too wordy" and complained about the long parragraphs, but I'm loving it, ..."

I'm a bit further on than that, but I agree with you, I'm still waiting to see the famous wordiness. Perhaps it's because his writing is very Victorian but his outlook is perhaps more modern, so that some readers expect to be reading a faster paced modern novel. But that's just speculation. So far, I like his writing.


message 20: by Silver (new)

Silver Everyman wrote: "Antía wrote: "I'm starting chapter 4 today. I know some people on previous threads has said James was "too wordy" and complained about the long parragraphs, but I'm loving it, ..."

I'm a bit furth..."


Though this is only my 2nd novel of his, I have read a collection of his short stories, I will say that this book is far more readable than The Ambassadors Though I do enjoy James, I was a bit daunted at the thought of tackling another one of his novels but this one is much more easy going.


message 21: by Micaelyn (new)

Micaelyn (captaincaelyn) | 19 comments The whole first 7% is forewords and prefaces...


message 22: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments I just listened to Chapter 3 (I'm alternating reading and listening; get very different things out of each approach), and really like the description of the house in Albany. It doesn't look as though it will play any further role in the book, as far as I can see at this point (though I could be wrong -- this is my first reading of the book), but it's interesting that James spends so much time on the detailed description of the house. Presumably it is intended to give us some insight into Isabel, who spend a great deal of her childhood in the house?

I especially liked the touch of the young girls calling the short arched passage the "tunnel," and finding it "strange and lonely." And her preference for reading in the "office," with its odd collection of mismatched and mostly imperfect furniture.

I am seeing her sitting there on a rainy afternoon (no, there's no indication that this day is rainy, but surely she's sat there on rainy days) reading a book taken from her grandfather's library. It takes me back to the time I spent as a child in my grandmother's house with its library full of wonderful books I was allowed to read on a wet afternoon if I was very careful.

But back to Portrait, it does give me some hints of her childhood (I love her response to Dutch House, where she didn't want to go, but where hearing the multiplication tables wafting out across the street, in which "the elation of liberty and the pain of exclusion were indistinguishably mingled." What a perfect description of a child's reactions.) I get the idea of a curious, intelligent child but one growing up more in the company of books than of companions, appreciative of solitude but with some sense of the missing pleasures of company.


message 23: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments Micaelyn wrote: "The whole first 7% is forewords and prefaces..."

Would you clarify? My book has no forwards and prefaces at all. Are you referring to the early chapters, or does your copy of the book have forwards and prefaces?


message 24: by Micaelyn (new)

Micaelyn (captaincaelyn) | 19 comments Everyman wrote: "Micaelyn wrote: "The whole first 7% is forewords and prefaces..."

Would you clarify? My book has no forwards and prefaces at all. Are you referring to the early chapters, or does your copy of th..."


Yes, I got my copy on the Kindle from Amazon, and literally the first 7% was all prefaces and notes. It was such a pain to flip through haha!


message 25: by [deleted user] (new)

Everyman wrote: "Micaelyn wrote: "The whole first 7% is forewords and prefaces..."

Would you clarify? My book has no forwards and prefaces at all. Are you referring to the early chapters, or does your copy of th..."


Everyman, I'm reading it on the Oxford Wold's Classics edition and apart of the editor's introduction, there is a preface written by James in 1907.


message 26: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments Micaelyn wrote: "Yes, I got my copy on the Kindle from Amazon, and literally the first 7% was all prefaces and notes. It was such a pain to flip through haha! "

Which edition did you get? I got the free one in two volumes which has no introductory material, but I see there are several other Kindle editions available.


message 27: by Daga (new)

Daga | 11 comments I have read three chapters so far but I'm already enjoying it. At first, the long sentences were quite difficult to follow. I'm not used to read such long sentences in English text LOL, yet after some time I got used to it and appreciate long descriptions, even though I often need to reread them a few times.

When it comes to characters, I must say I adore those formal conversations between high class people. And the part about marrying or at least falling in love with an interesting woman was fantastic.

I'm also very curious how the character of Isabel will be developed throughout the story.


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) I don't mind the long paragraphs either, Daga. They do seem to flow well and not be some meandering group of words.

I am not sure about our heroine. I do get some "vibes" that she is not as she appears to be. She seems too good, too eager, too sweet. It can be me as I tend to be a suspicious sort.


message 29: by Lauri (new)

Lauri | 56 comments I have a Barnes & Noble classics edition and I have the same - the preface by James was around 10 pages itself. I got about 3 pages in and thought if I kept through to the end of the preface, I would give up and not read the book (overly long-winded). My edition says that his later books were where he progressed to the "stream of conciousness" phase of his writing. This is an earlier book, so should not see that too much I think.


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) I so agree, Lauri. I read the preface and thought oh no, I am in trouble here. You are so right long winded certainly is a good phrase to use. Happily the actual book is not more of the same.

The only person who imo opinion can do stream of consciousness well is Faulkner.


message 31: by Andreea (new)

Andreea (andyyy) | 58 comments Everyman wrote: "Silver wrote: "I have to say I found it kind of strange that Mr. Touchett had not seen his wife for a year, and she did not even have any idea about his current condition. And than after not seeing..."

To be fair, that's exactly what happens in Brideshead Revisited too, so while I was reading it, I was thinking back on the more recent book and it didn't seem that unusual.

I think the house, or rather houses in general, might be more important that it seems at first glance. We've been talking a lot both in my English lit course (which is currently doing 19th century American women short story writers) and in my Comp lit one on heroic women about enclosures, the domestic sphere and how women often feel trapped in their own homes. While we see the men enjoying their cup of tea outside in the sunlight, the women are locked up inside (in what I image to be really gloomy rooms) - Mrs Touchett locks herself up in her room all the time, although she's supposed to be in her own home and the first appearance (the first in chronological order, that is) of Isabel puts her in an almost labyrinthine locked house with a false exist. Of course, there's also Lord Warburton's house. His insistence of Isabel seeing the house reminds me of Pride and Prejudice's Pemberley which more or less makes Elizabeth fall in love with Darcy.


message 32: by Silver (new)

Silver Andreea wrote: "Everyman wrote: "Silver wrote: "I have to say I found it kind of strange that Mr. Touchett had not seen his wife for a year, and she did not even have any idea about his current condition. And than..."

Haha your teacher isn't Dr. Lynch by any chance? I jest, but in one of my old English classes we talked about much the same thing. The way in which women were trapped in thier homes, and how the home which should be a safe place for women becomes instead like a prison and sometimes a place of danger, we also talked about the idea of mazes within the home and the traps laid out for women the within.


One of the things which I enjoy about the writing of James is that though he is a realistic writer, and often a very psychological one, I love the way he does introduce certain elements of the Gothic into his stories.


message 33: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments This is, I am somewhat surprised to realize, my first James (well, my first Henry James; I've read William), and he reminds me -- not in style, but in content -- of no one so much as Jane Austen. He is also concerned with the upper classes, though of a somewhat later era, presenting, at least so far, their ordinary private lives, nothing all that exciting happening, but conversation in a leisurely, refine way, with for the younger generation the hint of a suitable marriage always lurking in the background.

That may all change as we get further into the book, but that at least is my initial impression.


message 34: by Lily (last edited Mar 03, 2011 05:38PM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 1289 comments Andreea wrote: "His insistence of Isabel seeing the house reminds me of Pride and Prejudice's Pemberley which more or less makes Elizabeth fall in love with Darcy."

Well, that's one way of reading P&P or viewing its visual adaptations. I do think there is evidence for other motivations and attractions as well. (Yes, I know, this discussion is not about P&P -- sorry, but I have just been through the annotated Austen, a book retreat featuring the book, and several viewings of two of the movie versions. Elizabeth Bennet may recognize the potential of Pemberley, but it seems to me that Darcy's essential decency wins her heart. And I have never been particularly a Jane Austen fan.)

Not sure Isabel is going to be so wise, but need to go read some more.


message 35: by Silver (new)

Silver I have to say I was a bit surprised by Mrs. Touchett's outburst, and sudden concern with propriety when Isabel wanted to stay up in the drawing room with Lord Warburton and Ralph. Considering what a show she makes about independence and I would think it is hardly conventional or considered very proper the way in which she does not even live with her husband, and travels around Europe and to America, alone without him, and has her own house in Florence.

Though perhaps she is jealous at the thought of Isabel being too independent from her, as she seems to fancy Isabel a sort of protege of hers, or she is worried that if Isabel were to become involved with a man it would spoil her own plans for Isabel.


message 36: by Andreea (last edited Mar 05, 2011 05:18AM) (new)

Andreea (andyyy) | 58 comments Silver wrote: "Haha your teacher isn't Dr. Lynch by any chance? I jest, but in one of my old English classes we talked about much the same thing. The way in which women were trapped in thier homes, and how the home which should be a safe place for women becomes instead like a prison and sometimes a place of danger, we also talked about the idea of mazes within the home and the traps laid out for women the within."

I don't think there's a Dr Lynch working in the English and/or Modern Languages departments at Glasgow. But we did Phedra is Comparative Lit which is about labyrinths so it was almost bound to come up.

I wonder if anybody else found it interesting that Isabel is described as a Robert Browning fan in chapter 4:
She had had everything a girl could have: kindness, admiration, bonbons, bouquets, the sense of exclusion from none of the privileges of the world she lived in, abundant opportunity for dancing, plenty of new dresses, the London Spectator, the latest publications, the music of Gounod, the poetry of Browning, the prose of George Eliot.

Henry James was one of the first and most important supporters/critics of Robert Browning which at the time was fairly unpopular (especially before he wrote The Ring and the Book). He was also universally considered to be a difficult and obscure poet even by his wife and friends (which show us that Isabel was more than a naive young girl - which is what I took her for the first time I read the book) and a vulgar, rough, almost inappropriate one (so Isabel had eccentric tastes). Moreover, it's interesting to wonder whether Isabel read The Ring and the Book (which was Browning's most popular/widely read book at the time, although nobody seems to read long books of poetry nowadays) since Browning's book also features a young girl who is adopted by a wealthy family. I'd say more about the similarities between the two, but I'd give away the plot of The Portrait of a Lady and I don't want to do that.


message 37: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1418 comments Andreea, your information is very interesting. I think from what you say, I agree that Isabel has a unique mind, and not a naive mind. I was just "studying on" (as my grandmother would say) this chapter yesterday. It is may be that same chapter where we are really seeing a view of Isabel's thoughts.

Because I was looking at detail on her background. She was raised by this father whose characteristics are familiar of others as the story gets farther along. She actually spend a good deal of sporadic time in Europe as a child, and certainly not in a sheltered way. And then she is obviously a reader of ideas beyond the norm, as you said. And she also keeps this in the closet a bit --doesn't want everyone to know her as "bookish."

So rather than naive, is Isabel simply at this point in early adulthood where she needs to distill all this she had gained so far in life? She is trying to choose a path to travel on. So she is experienced, but maybe has reached the end of her own experience and trying to form a style or method of actually entering adulthood?


message 38: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1418 comments Silver, commenting on your message 35, I think Mrs. Touchette is a bit of a poser. Remember her conversation with Ralph -- he phrases it more than once "what do you mean to do with her [Isabel]?" Ralph seems to know what we do not -- that maybe Mrs. T's "projects" and maybe her "duty" to others may not be altogether sincere attempts. So I doubt that she even has real plans for Isabel.

And, as you say, her reprimanding Isabel for sitting in the drawing room with gentlemen -- a bit inconsistent. She seems to me a woman who has primarily settled on the goal of living the life of the stylish European, without constrictions of the boring English estate of her husband. And of her dedication to Isabel, she says herself that a stylish niece can be good for your own appearance.


message 39: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 1289 comments Love your comments so far. I would entirely have missed the Browning allusion and its implications!


message 40: by Silver (new)

Silver I found it rather amusing the way in which Isabel so glibly spoke of the idea of a revolution occurring in England and how she treated the subject as if it would be like something from the novels she read and her disappointment that Lord Warburton would not likely become a martyr, showing her detachment from the reality. Her romanticization of the idea of a revolution and jesting about guillotines, may be James reflecting some of three idealistic views which Americans had about Europe. I also loved Mr. Touchett, dictating what he thought the government if England should or should not do and how they ought to stay just as they are and not change particularly since some of those changes may prove inconvenient to him. That is such an American attitude.


message 41: by Bernadette (new)

Bernadette (bern51) The Portrait of a Lady is on my 2011 12+2 list for the Book Addicts. So happy I can read it with a group now! I loved Washington Square and am enjoying "Portrait" already. I'm really enjoying this conversation too.


message 42: by Lauri (new)

Lauri | 56 comments Silver wrote: "I have to say I was a bit surprised by Mrs. Touchett's outburst, and sudden concern with propriety when Isabel wanted to stay up in the drawing room with Lord Warburton and Ralph. Considering what ..."


I agree, this really caught me off guard. Seems very inconsistant with her other social / morals viewpoints that we have seen so far. I have to say I'm not sure I like Mrs. Touchett and am feeling embarassed if that is what the English thought about American women at the time. Mr. Touchett and Ralph seem such sympathetic characters and she doesn't seem to be able to dedicate more than an minimal amount of her time and efforts to them, not to mention love. If she were young, one could think her fay and forgive her inconsistancies, but in a mature woman, it hardly seems acceptable, at least with the background we have been presented with so far.


message 43: by Rachel (new)

Rachel (thedoctorscompanion) Now that it is mentioned, it is very odd that Mrs. Touchett would tell Isabel not to stay in a room alone with 2 men, even though one was her cousin. Wouldn't it really have been fine since her cousin was there? Maybe her ideas of independence cause her to be overprotective of her niece, and she probably wants her niece to be just like her, seeing she took her home and all.


message 44: by Silver (new)

Silver I think part of the reason for Mrs. Touchett acting the way she did about Isabel wanting to set up in the drawing room was because of her own jealousy about Isabel. In fact I think she made a comment once when speaking of her husband about how Isabel was "her" niece" She does have this sort of possessives over Isabel I think.

As well if Isabel were go have some love affair with Lord Warburton, she would not be able to go traipsing across Europe with Mrs. Touchett and come up to live with her in Florence.

I think also she may like to view Isabel as being like herself. As she sees herself as being this independent woman, so while the idea if independence in general is fine, she does not want Isabel being independent from her.


message 45: by Bernadette (new)

Bernadette (bern51) Silver wrote: "I think part of the reason for Mrs. Touchett acting the way she did about Isabel wanting to set up in the drawing room was because of her own jealousy about Isabel. In fact I think she made a comme..."

I agree, I don't think she wants to lose Isabel to anyone else. Isabel is like a little project to her it seems


message 46: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments SarahC wrote: "Because I was looking at detail on her background. "

I also found that chapter very interesting. So far I haven't seen any evidence of her unusual childhood (or at least unusual by modern standards; maybe less so for the wealthy of the 1870s) coming up in her conversation or views. I keep looking for it, but so far am not finding it.


message 47: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments In Chapter 5, Isabel and Mr. Touchett are talking about England and its attitudes.

"The people are very good people; especially if you like them."

"I've no doubt they're good," Isabel rejoined; "but are they pleasant in society? They won't rob me nor beat me; but will they make themselves agreeable to me? That's what I like people to do. I don't hesitate to say so, because I always appreciate it. I don't believe they're very nice to girls; they're not nice to them in the novels."

I'm wondering what this is referring to, particularly since she is fond of the novels of George Eliot; I don't see these as being unusually not nice to girls. Hardy hadn't come along by then, so James can't be referring to him. Austen's characters are almost always nice to girls. So why is this in here, and what is it referring to?


message 48: by Silver (new)

Silver Everyman wrote: I'm wondering what this is referring to, particularly since she is fond of the novels of George Eliot; I don't see these as being unusually not nice to girls.;..."

That is an interesting question now that you bring it up. I have not really considered it before. Though I do not know when they were published in relation to James but a couple of possibilities about this time in each there is unkindness to girls which comes to my mind is possibly Wilkie Collins, or the Brontes?


message 49: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1418 comments In the comments about Mrs. Touchette, I don't know that I can see signs of her jealousy over Isabel in the actual reading. Mrs. Touchette seems too inactive for that at this point in the story. We may see developments later. Ralph calls her the "grim visitor"! (Now HE is captivating, poor guy.) And she is virtually ignoring Isabel. Most jealous relationships are more evident, I think.


message 50: by Daga (new)

Daga | 11 comments Silver wrote: "I think part of the reason for Mrs. Touchett acting the way she did about Isabel wanting to set up in the drawing room was because of her own jealousy about Isabel. .... 'I think also she may like to view Isabel as being like herself. As she sees herself as being this independent woman, so while the idea if independence in general is fine, she does not want Isabel being independent from her.

I get exactly the same impression. Inferring from Mrs. Touchett behaviour, one would expect her to be more open-minded and willing to accept a broad independence, yet she often acts on the contrary, which is very confusing. I'm trying to figure out where it's only jealousy or is there something else behind this. I was wondering if she is maybe trying to compensate for the fact of having a son, which may not be 'convenient' to her. Taking Isabel under her custody, she's trying to mold her into her image of a perfect woman - in her understanding - which she undoubtedly would do with her own daughter.


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