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Title: Portrait of a Lady and the Objectification of Character

Total Pages: 15 Words: 4268 References: 10 Citation Style: APA Document Type: Essay

Essay Instructions: The topic of the paper should be the objectification of character in Portrait of a Lady, although please develop a thesis-driven paper that considers the issues of the novels engagement with the aesthetic stance on life, gender, conventionality v. originality and freedom. Please use James' prologue to the novel as a source--it may also be helpful to use his works on literary theory. Please provide ample textual evidence using Portrait of a Lady itself (pick an edition that you have access to), but also consider critics' engagements with the text (always cite a work, even when you don't use direct quotations, and please note the specific page number of the paper or book). The introduction should delve immediately into the thesis, the meat of the paper; please make an assertion about the novel's stance on these issues. You can use this below as a groundwork for the paper. I will be uploading other sources, but please make sure the paper has at least 10 sources of reference. Thank you very much and please let me if you run into any trouble. I really need this paper within the time frame though!

As its title intimates, The Portrait of a Lady is a novel that examines ideas of being and its representation. The relationship between life and art, self-conception and societal perception, interiority and worldly possessions, and selfhood and self-expression are some of the complicated dynamics explored by the bildungsroman of Isabel Archer. James’ characters ostensibly strike very different ideas of selfhood through their distinct negotiations of the notions of character and things; nevertheless, while some of these differences are genuine, Portrait’s inhabitants are, on the whole, remarkably similar when it comes to their aesthetic weakness to read the self by the “shell” (175). Madame Merle’s “great respect for things” (175) and vision of personhood as the summation of personal ornaments (“one’s house, one’s furniture, one’s garments, the company one keeps”) hint at her perception of the self as artwork and her objectification of herself as well as those around her. Gilbert Osmond rather than his longtime mistress will ultimately reflect the consummate example of this vision.
Isabel’s proclaimed disagreement with Madame Merle on what constitutes success and the self early in the novel proves to have a smaller effect on how she interacts with others than we might expect. James confides that “with all her love of knowledge,” Isabel displays “a natural shrinking from raising curtains and looking into unlighted corners” (173), and it is perhaps this willful ignorance that contrives to result in the heroine’s unfortunate marriage. Yet for all she claims to “think just the other way” (175) to Madame Merle, Isabel will be guilty of aestheticizing Gilbert Osmond and his “envelope of circumstances,” chiefly his daughter and aura of refinement. The very guardedness of his appearance??"the opposite to the unsophisticated Caspar Goodwood??"and the many opinions and artistic tastes with which Osmond shrouds himself lead the young woman to believe him to be in possession of a great depth of character when he is, in fact, lacking in any interiority but for his narcissism and thirst for social admiration. Isabel’s ill-fated reading of Osmond cannot be claimed to be a result of a weakness in her anti-Merlean philosophy. At least when it comes to “other people[’s]” selves, the heroine seems to hold up to Merle’s notion of self-expression and social perception through things??"she merely changes the value system among said things and wholly lacks the older woman’s self-awareness.
It is only when the curtains are lifted and the corners lit up for Isabel??"first, though her realization of Osmond’s true nature, and finally, in the knowledge of the manipulation and deceit wrought onto her by Madame Merle and her husband??"that her vision becomes wholly distinct from Osmond’s objectifying collector’s gaze. Isabel’s claim that “nothing else [other than herself] expresses [her]” is awfully naïve when it comes to other people’s perceptive powers??"not even she proves capable of judging by something other than people’s reflected “shells.” Worse, it is almost as solipsistic as Osmond’s distant and divorced conception of everything and everyone around him. Isabel’s matured vision is one that identifies circumstances (Pansy and her marriage, for instance) not only as responsibilities of the self, but also??"for better or for worse??"as fundamental parts of it. The closest that we get to clear vision and true sensibility in Portrait is in the heroine’s construed subjectivity between herself and the place she has come to occupy in the world. While perhaps overly materialistic in her “ambitions” and ideas of “success” (174), Merle proves correct in that “there is no such thing as an isolated man or woman” (175).
This passage also makes us wonder about the novel’s open-ended conclusion and the motivations we might be able to read into Isabel’s decision to return to her unhappy marriage. Her inability to claim that she would rather “go without” the dresses that she points out to be “imposed upon [her] by society” might very well be read as an indicator that for all of her love for independence, Isabel has some desire to satisfy social convention. Her endurance of her loveless marriage need not only be viewed as a form of unusual martyrdom; after all, her very wish to prove the temple of her character by suffering misfortune is, at its core, a loyalty to “conventional” values and conceptions of good morals. Merle’s concluding advice that Isabel not “keep on refusing for the sake of refusing […] accepting’s after all an exercise of power as well” (196) can be read in different ways in light of Portrait’s denouement. Under a simplistic framework, Isabel’s final refusal of Goodwood’s offer to rescue her from her loveless marriage to Osmond is evidence that the heroine fails to take such advice to heart, and indeed indulges in refusals (which turn from empowerment via the denial of others into empowerment via self-denial) to the very end. At the same time, Isabel’s decision to return to Italy and her stepdaughter is also, however, an exercise in “accepting”??"not only social convention, but also the responsibilities and pains that accompany the realization that one’s circumstances can??"and do??"touch and change us.

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Excerpt From Essay:

Title: The Portraits of Gertrude Stein

Total Pages: 3 Words: 938 Works Cited: 3 Citation Style: MLA Document Type: Research Paper

Essay Instructions: A comparison Essay between Pablo Picasso's Portrait of Gertrude Stien 1905 and Francis Rose's Hommage a Gertrude Stein

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Excerpt From Essay:

Title: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Total Pages: 2 Words: 607 Bibliography: 0 Citation Style: MLA Document Type: Essay

Essay Instructions: Focusing on A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man you will be asked to carry out a close critical reading of a short extract of the text, You should choose one critical perspective to approach the reading from:

Feminist Theory

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Excerpt From Essay:

Title: Portrait of An Artist

Total Pages: 2 Words: 831 Sources: 0 Citation Style: MLA Document Type: Research Paper

Essay Instructions: Assignment 3: Joyce (on Portrait of an Artist in Lesson 10)
Please choose one of the major motifs in A Portrait that you recorded on the list you have been working on since Lesson 2 and trace its development throughout the novel. Remember you may search the electronic text of Portrait online, which may be helpful. Please be sure to identify specifically and to acknowledge any information that you derive from print or online resources using both internal references and a list of "Works [or Web Sites] Cited." (50 points)
Themes, Symbols and Motifs List
Individual Consciousness, Politics and Family Matters: chapter 1
Change, Decline and Poverty: chapter 2
Self Awareness, Art, and Religion: chapter 3 and 4
Emma: chapter 5
Please post your essay to the Safe-Assign portals. Submitting your essay to the "Draft" portal will allow you to check for passages in your essay which you need to identify as borrowings and acknowledge sources for. Please submit the final version of your essay to the "Final" Safe-Assign portal by 11:55 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 9. This essay is worth 50 points.

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