The Thing about Henry James


While I was reading The Portrait of a Lady, I got so frustrated at some points that I literally threw my book across the room. In real life, people will frustrate me the way that Isabel Archer frustrated me in the book. The only difference being that I can not throw a person across the room whenever they frustrate me.

Anyway, what I am trying to say is that I have yet to read a book that develops its characters to be so realistic and so terribly human, the way that James had developed his. I feel like his books are more character driven rather than plot driven. There is a certain psychology that you have to tap into while reading his work. It is so intensely unique to find something like this, seeing as most fiction is solely plot driven. Although his books, in terms of plot, can easily fall into the cliché categories, his characters do not. While reading the preface to this book, I remember him mentioning how he likes to watch people in society and, in his imagination, place them in interesting scenarios, guessing how they would react. When you think about it, it is so simple (and fun)—almost like The Sims, except in your head!

As much as I  love his work, I was frustrated by the ending of Portrait of a Lady. I lost some sleep last night because of that.


“It appeared to Isabel that the disagreeable had been even too absent from her knowledge, for she had gathered from her aquaintance with literature that it was often a source of interest, and even of instruction.”

-Henry James pg. 27

“The finest pleasures in life are to be found in the world of action.”

-Henry James pg. 34


“‘But I always want to know the things one shouldn’t do.’

‘So as to do them?’ asked her aunt.

‘So as to choose’, said Isabel.”

-Henry James pg. 60


“I try to care more about the world than about myself–but I always come back to myself. It’s because I am afraid.”

-Henry James pg. 205


“Don’t mind anything that anyone tells you about anyone. Judge everyone and everything for yourself.”

-Henry James pg 231


“The passion of love separates its victim terribly from everyone but the loved object.”

-Henry James pg 324



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