The Portrait of a Lady, Henry James repeatedly uses the technique of foreshadowing to hint at the tragic fate in store for Isabel towards the end of the book.

The Portrait of a Lady, Henry James repeatedly uses the technique of foreshadowing to hint at the tragic fate in store for Isabel towards the end of the book.

In his book, The Portrait of a Lady, Henry James repeatedly uses the technique of foreshadowing to hint at the tragic fate in store for Isabel towards the end of the book. This fate is created by Isabel’s unrelenting drive for independence, a key theme of this novel. Using foreshadowing, James shows that too much independence isn’t always a positive trait and actually, may lead to numerous problems. Throughout the story, James uses various secondary characters to drop subtle clues pertaining to Isabel’s future. After Isabel end up marrying Osmond, these prophesies are fulfilled. Ironically, Isabel’s desire for independence actually works against her and ends up limiting her freedom. From the very beginning of the book when Isabel Archer is first introduced, she is described as “quite independent.” This theme of independence is Isabel’s most defining characteristic and one that stays with her throughout the story. As she states herself, Isabel is “very fond of (her) liberty.” Additionally, Isabel’s brazen nature, along with her exotic American background is exactly what attracts others towards her. Unlike the quiet, refined women present in English nobility, Isabel is never afraid to speak her mind or travel her own path. As a result, suitors such as Lord Warburton view her as their idea of “an interesting woman.” Even Ralph, her cousin, is so mystified that he wishes to “live long enough to see what she does with herself.” Isabel’s independence is shown when she repeatedly rejects the help and advice of her friends. Despite the urgings of both Ralph and Mr. Touchett, she refuses Lord Warburton’s proposal, an offer that most women would leap at, only stating that she “can’t escape unhappiness.” In the same way, Isabel also undermines Henrietta’s efforts to match her with Caspar Goodwood. By having her show such an independent streak from the start, James increases the contrast i…


Comments are closed.