Sunday, December 28, 2014

Portrait of a Lady

Thoughts on Henry James' Portrait of a Lady.

One of the best lines in Henry James' novel, Portrait of a Lady, is the line he gives to Ralph Touchett. 
Portrait of a Lady, Dawson Dawson-Watson

Ralph's a detached observer but a social scientist, too, in his own way. In Henry James' world, if someone is sick and wealthy, they have the privileged position to quietly observe.

Ralph, as everyone knows, sets up a grand experiment. He uses his cousin, Isabelle, whom he adores as a subject. 

James gives Ralph Touchett the line, "I call people rich if they can satisfy their imagination." 

In the novel, Ralph wants to make Isabelle rich to see if that will allow her the freedom to follow her dreams.

But you don't really need to be rich to satisfy your imagination and he seems to forget that. 

If you are a poor and starving artist, but have enough for art supplies, you can be rich.