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Kelley
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PostSubject: Discussion Questions   Tue May 01, 2007 4:04 pm

1. Describe the elliptical technique James often uses in his narration. What is a narrative ellipsis? How does James employ the technique? What effect does his frequent skipping forward have on the novel as a whole?

2. Portrait of a Lady, as its title would suggest, is largely devoted to the character of Isabel Archer. How does James use his psychological portrayal of Isabel to justify her decision to surrender her treasured independence in order to marry Osmond?

3. "The Portrait of a Lady is consistently focused on the idea of Isabel Archer's independence: whether she has it, whether she is true to it, whether she betrays it, and whether it is more important than her social duty. But the novel never really defines what "independence" means, and as a result, it lacks thematic focus." Do you agree or disagree with this statement?

4. Compare and contrast Isabel's three suitors, Gilbert Osmond, Caspar Goodwood, and Lord Warburton. How are they alike? What are their important differences? What ideas do they each symbolize? How does Isabel respond to each of them, and why does she respond to them as she does? What light do they cast on Isabel's relation to the idea of romance?

5. With particular attention to the characters of Henrietta Stackpole and Mrs. Touchett, what does the novel's position seem to be with regard to feminism? Is Portrait of a Lady a feminist book in any way or ultimately a conservative novel?

6. Describe the character of Madame Merle. What role does she play in the novel? Where does she seem to fit on the spectrum between personal independence and social conformity? Is she ultimately a villain, or does she have qualities that enable the reader to sympathize with her behavior?

7. Discuss James's use of geography as an object of symbolism in the novel. How do particular places take on thematic qualities? What symbolic trajectory does James chart by having Isabel travel from Albany to London to Florence to Rome?
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Minimoosey

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PostSubject: Re: Discussion Questions   Thu May 24, 2007 8:47 am

#5

I sure liked this question. Feminism in this book is brought out in many ways. First Henrietta is definitely a feminist. Even in America she is making her own living and traveling on her own earnings. She is happy to travel with another man without any strings attached. She then realizes that after many months this is the man for her. Her ideas of an independent women are probably like ours. She wants Isabel to stay independent in the "feminine" way, meaning not independent in her opinions only. I think that was Isabel's problem with Osmond.

Mrs. Touchette is also a feminist. From the beginning of her marriage she has taken an "independent" stand on her marriage and location of her home. The only thing that I don't understand is why she helped Isabel come over to Europe, and then let her destroy herself?
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Kelley
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PostSubject: Re: Discussion Questions   Thu May 24, 2007 9:02 am

1. Describe the elliptical technique James often uses in his narration. What is a narrative ellipsis? How does James employ the technique? What effect does his frequent skipping forward have on the novel as a whole?

Most interestingly I noted how important events were completely skipped over and huge chunks of time passed, and we found out through the character's conversation later. I wondered if this was in part to keep the reader 'hooked'.

6. Describe the character of Madame Merle. What role does she play in the novel? Where does she seem to fit on the spectrum between personal independence and social conformity? Is she ultimately a villain, or does she have qualities that enable the reader to sympathize with her behavior?

Merle is a villian through most of the book, but we begin to see at the end that her acting out was directly related to her own losses (not that it's ok). She begins to see how her selfish behavior has ruined Isabel and Pansy, and I beleive is beginning to feel sorry for it.

She seems an independent woman to society and the reader, for the first part of the book, as she travels Europe and meets in society alone. She is accepted though mostly because her social behavior is perfect. In the end we see that she is really controlled by Osborne and finances.
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Kelley
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PostSubject: Re: Discussion Questions   Thu May 24, 2007 9:03 am

I think you made some good points Marti.
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