Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)



First Advisor

Clifford J. Hand

First Committee Member

Charles Clerc

Second Committee Member

Lawrence J. Osborne


The opening scene of The Portrait of a Lady takes place upon the broad, sunlit lawns of Gardencourt. Yet, even in this expansive setting, the most essential character in the novel, the protagonist, is, curiously, no more than a narrow, shadowy speculation symbolized by a few odd words found in a telegram of dubious value. The only worth of these words comes in the amount of curiosity they can arouse in the other characters and in the reader. For it appears that, with this slow but significantly unusual means of introducing Isabel, the author intends her for more than a mere foil in a worldly triangle.

Henry James does not squander his characters and while the plot of this novel, for example, suggests a debt to the traditional sentimental novel, the characters transcend such a strict formula and take on great depth and mass. Thus, as the reader progresses through the tale, he is continually surprised, and gratified, to discover that the characters emerge as real personalities, each possessing, his own set of ideas, sensibilities, an visions. When these personalities are brought together there can be no chance for a sentimental novel.





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