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portrait of a lady

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'Phantasms of Love':


Jane Campion's film trailer:


THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY is a novel by HENRY JAMES, first published as a serial in 'The Atlantic Monthly and Macmillan's Magazine', in 1880 –1881, and then as a book in 1881.

'The Portrait of a Lady' is the story of spirited young American woman, Isabel Archer, who "affronts her destiny" and finds it overwhelming. She inherits a large amount of money and subsequently becomes the victim of machiavellian scheming by two American expatriates. Like many of James' novels, it is set mostly in Europe, notably England and Italy. Generally regarded as the masterpiece of his early phase of writing, this novel reflects James's continuing interest in the differences between the New World and the Old, often to the detriment of the former. It also treats in a profound way the themes of personal freedom, responsibility, betrayal, and sexuality.

James' first idea for 'The Portrait of a Lady' was simplicity itself: a young American woman confronting her destiny, whatever it might be. Only then did he begin to form a plot to bring out the character of his central figure. Ironically, that plot became an uncompromising story of the free-spirited Isabel losing her freedom — despite (or because of) suddenly coming into a great deal of money — and getting "ground in the very mill of the conventional." The theme of freedom vs. responsibility runs throughout 'The Portrait' and helps explain Isabel's possible final decision to return to Osmond. In this sense it is rather existentialist, as Isabel is very committed to living with the consequences of her choice with integrity but also a sort of stubbornness.

But that decision is affected by another major theme of the novel: Isabel's sexual fears and diffidence. Although she is eventually shown as capable of deep arousal, she rejects Lord Warburton and Goodwood, two very strong and masculine suitors, in favor of the seemingly less threatening and hopelessly cold Osmond. Although the conventions of 19th century Anglo-American fiction prevented a completely frank treatment of this part of Isabel's character, James still makes it clear that her fate was at least partially shaped by her uneasiness with passionate commitment.

The richness of The Portrait is hardly exhausted by a review of Isabel's character. The novel exhibits a huge panorama of trans-atlantic life, a far larger canvas than any James had previously painted. This moneyed world appears charming and leisurely but proves to be plagued with treachery, deceit and suffering. It is only through disappointment and loss, James seems to say, that one can grow to complete maturity.

(in Wikipedia)


Second Life - Vamporium (Victorian dark role play)


Outfit created by Cutea Benelli (GRIM BROS.)

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Uploaded on April 18, 2010