Portrait of a Lady: Essay Q&A
1. Describe the Touchett family and their relationship with England.
The first chapter of The Portrait of a Lady begins in the grounds of Gardencourt and this is described as an English country house with a history of its own. The owner, Mr Daniel Touchett, has come to love it and although he is originally from the United States, he has lived in England for 30 years now. His son, Ralph, was taught in the United States, but has also had a stereotypically English education at Oxford.
Although, the father and son have found a niche there and regard Gardencourt as home, Lydia Touchett comes for only visits. She prefers Florence to England and the decision to live away from her family characterizes her as independent, if not aloof, as well as contemptuous of the English lifestyle.
2. Examine the portrayal of the Old and New World.
As a young woman sitting in Albany before the arrival of her aunt, Isabel Archer is described as ‘original’ and we are told of her thirst for knowledge. She is somewhat naive, but also ‘independent’ in her thinking and enjoys questioning others. Her friend Henrietta Stackpole is also described as independent and is thought not to care a straw for what men think of her.
When Isabel comes to Europe, she learns about the closer adherence to propriety and is expected, for example, to have escorts while on her travels. This is just one example of how traditions are seen to be more embedded in the culture of the Old World and it is of interest that the American-born Gilbert Osmond adheres to these the most closely. It may be argued that he embodies the worst traits of the European and has adopted these as a means to feel superior to others.
3. Consider the role of art and art appreciation.
From the title onwards, the narrative makes numerous passing allusions to art and the appreciation of it. When Isabel first visits Gardencourt, for example, she asks Ralph to show her the paintings in the...