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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 455

Some good quotes from "The Real Thing" are:

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A glance at the lady helped to remind me of this paradoxical law: she also looked too distinguished to be a "personality."

She was always a lady certainly, and into the
bargain was always the same lady. She was the real thing, but always the same thing.

These quotes highlight the theme of artifice versus authenticity. The "lady" here is Mrs. Monarch. She is what the artist would describe as "the real thing," a woman whose very demeanor alludes to her station in life. However, Mrs. Monarch's ingrained habits of poise and personality make it difficult for her to produce the spontaneity needed to excel as an artist's model. Her lack of this particular skill is the main reason the artist releases her from his employ.

But, somehow, with all their perfections I didn't easily believe in them. After all they were amateurs, and the ruling passion of my life was the detestation of the amateur. Combined with this was another perversity—an innate preference for the represented subject over the real one: the defect of the real one was so apt to be a lack of representation.

Here, the artist reveals his own bias. He is awed by Major and Mrs. Monarch's obviously distinguished heritage. However, he believes this to be a disadvantage when it comes to art. The artist prefers to hire models who can titillate and exhibit romanticized poses with effortless grace. The Major and his wife, although naturally elegant, poised, and sophisticated, fail at artistic subterfuge. They are simply too practiced in their habits to act any other way. By contrasting the couple and the artist's favorite models, James raises an important question: can art be absolutely authentic?

He stood his ground, however,...

(The entire section contains 455 words.)

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