I wasn’t wrong when I referred to women as volatile creatures because aside from the fact that I am qualitatively speaking from personal experience, I also guess The Portrait of the Lady is wholly accepted as a connotative portrait of ladies in general.
While reading her adventures, I wanted nothing more than to tell the feisty heroine, “Oh come on, Isabel! Make up your mind!”. Even with the presence of a narrator and the useful state of shifting from one character to another, I still cannot help but be perplexed at what Isabel’s thinking; it’s like she’s a complete enigma on her own! Her mind is a wonderful cornucopia of metaphors and riddles that you have to read between the lines most of the time; if the narrator focused on her thoughts alone, it would not be enough to do her justice. Even though it’s prose, there’s still that air of poetry where you have to figure out the arcane for yourself. I normally skip through the long pretexts of Oxford versions so I only got to appreciate it lately when I had to refer to it to shed me some light on some events, unfortunately though, it’s still not sufficing.
And in my previous post, I said I was not sure whether or not I like Isabel. I now know why. Call me prejudiced but my fondness for her faltered since she became acquainted with Gilbert Osmond; in the nascency of their dreadful relationship, her want of “seeing life” was greatly influenced by Osmond’s adamant view of it. It didn’t help that Madame Merle was there encouraging her all the while; by the way, I knew from the start that this woman was nefarious, her reaction to Isabel’s sudden rise in fortune was a dead give away. It was rather surprising how Isabel easily succumbed to Osmond (I was rooting for Lord Warburton) but you cannot blame her for doing so. According to St. Augustine, we love because we want to partake in another’s personhood and Isabel only thought of doing just that. Besides how could she have augured Osmond’s intentions when the only suffering she knew was literary? I have to admit, she redeemed herself in my eyes when their relationship started to waver and here I thought, Good, all the more for Lord Warburton. 🙂
Let me add this, I don’t know if it’s just me but I absolutely adore Ralph Touchett! I don’t find him selfish at all in amusing himself by putting a little wind in Isabel’s sail because I’m perfectly sure the people who were touched by Isabel’s charm would have wanted to see what this lady would do with her life. Ralph also had this homey aura which gave a sense of comfort to Isabel whenever she thought of him. So as expected, with Ralph’s moribund scene — that was, wow, that was just tear-jerking — I felt as though a part of Isabel died with him as well.
If I ever sensed patent regret on her part (Isabel was kinda proud to admit regret, I have to say), it was evident on her return to Gardencourt, at the part where she was reflecting on the painting of Bonington. She was thinking of the inevitability of circumstances that pervaded to its present outcome. If her aunt, Mrs. Touchett, would have found her somewhere else and not reading alone in her grandmother’s library, things would have turned out differently. If she ever gave a positive thought on Ralph’s and Mrs. Touchett’s warnings, she would not have suffered her fate with Osmond. That scene was incredibly human because we too find ourselves in that situation once in a while (if not most), that bitter sense of regret where our indiscreet choices lead to the rejection or the acceptance of our future.
Now I don’t really know what happened to Isabel in the end but I guess it’s one those great works of literature that leave to the reader’s imagination the fate of the characters. On my part, I think the “straight path” that Isabel was going to traverse was finishing what she started. She may be miserable but backing out would be an inconsistency with what she said about not wanting to turn away from the usual chances and dangers of life. She had Pansy (who immensely loved her) to take care of and she would not want to put the girl’s expectations in abeyance. It was truly a noble thing to do.
To conclude, I am much grateful for accidentally coming upon The Portrait of a Lady. 🙂