The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James

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What is the significance of the word "portrait" in the title The Portrait of a Lady?

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The word "portrait" in the title of Portrait of a Lady is significant for several reasons. First, James wrote a self-consciously painterly novel, one that describes scenes in such as way that we can picture them as paintings on a canvas. For example, we can envisage this scene as a painting:

She had been looking all round her again,—at the lawn, the great trees, the reedy, silvery Thames, the beautiful old house . . . She had seated herself, and had put away the little dog; her white hands, in her lap, were folded upon her black dress; her head was erect, her eye brilliant, her flexible figure turned itself lightly this way and that, in sympathy with the alertness with which she evidently caught impressions . . .

Second, a portrait of a person necessarily leaves much out, and so does James's novel. As he wrote in a journal entry, "the whole of anything is never told." While the focus of his novelistic canvas is on Isabel Archer, the lives of...

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