Can I have a character sketch of Isabel Archer in The Portrait of a Lady written by Henry James?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Isabel Archer is the protagonist in the novel and the "Lady" of the title. She is a young woman from Albany, New York, who travels to Europe with her Aunt, Mrs. Touchett. One of the central conflicts that is explored through the book is her desire for personal independence and to journey and explore and her commitment to social propriety. This is explored chiefly through her relationships with men. She refuses her persistent suitor Caspar Goodwood, then proceeds to reject an English peer, and finally falls prey to a villainous scheme to have her married to the questionable Gilbert Osmond.

You would do well to examine how Isabel Archer is manipulated and affected by the actions of others. Her cousin's decision to give her a large part of his inheritance seems to be very indulgent, especially as it made her the victim of Madame Merle and Osmond. Ralph Touchett's desire to give her the money so she can have her dreams realised indicates a voyeuristic nature, and we wonder whether he regrets his decision at the end of the novel. What Isabel is famous for though is her decision to stay in her unhappy marriage to Osmond and reject searching for a happier future.

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