Saturday, January 5, 2013

What Are You After, Ralph? – The Portrait of A Lady

Reading one third of The Portrait of A Lady (p. 168 at the moment), I can’t but wondering about one of the main male characters: Ralph. Ralph Touchett is the only son of an American wealthy banker who had lived in England for a long time. Ralph suffered from pulmonary disease that prevented him from actively working, and just stayed home to take care of his father. His dull life was interrupted by the coming of his cousin: Isabel Archer—an independent girl from America who had interests to see other countries.

"Elizabeth Winthrop Chanler"
Smithsonian American Art Museum
(become the cover of
Penguin Classics edition
of The Portrait of A Lady)

Henry James didn’t put it clearly enough whether Ralph was in love with Isabel—I might come to a conclusion at the end—but the more intriguing questions in me right now are: **spoiler alert** You mightn’t want to keep reading if you haven’t read the book!

Why did Ralph make such generous act—giving Isabel half of his inheritance?

It could be because…

1. He loved her so much but he’s afraid Isabel won’t be happy if she became his wife, thus he just wanted to make sure she would be happy with what she want to do in her life.

2. He’d like to see what Isabel would do with her life, thus it’s some kind of human experiment to amuse Ralph’s boring life after his father died. In this case, Ralph was really taking advantage of Isabel, which meant that he didn’t really love her.

3. He wanted to keep her away from marrying other men—Isabel would not think about marriage as long as she’s wealthy enough. But if he knew that Isabel would outlive him, it’s not to marry her that he might have done that. Maybe he’s selfish enough to think that if he couldn’t marry Isabel, no other men could? Hmm….

Anyway…it's only my suggestions, there’s only one way to know the answer…keep reading to the end! :) That’s what I’m going to do now, I’m reading this book for The Classics Club Readathon today. I’ve been having a good time, and hopefully I can make it to 2/3 of it by the end of today. Will come back tomorrow or on Monday for the wrap up!


  1. I skipped over your spoiler; I am getting ready to read chapter 16, and I don't know if I can handle any more talk of marriage!!!

    1. LOL! Don't worry, after chapter 15 the talks about marriage will cease, although I'm sure it will appear again some chapters ahead.. :( What big mistake do you think Isabel will do if not marrying the wrong man?

      Tell me, do you think Ralph really loves Isabel?

    2. I'm an English Literature student in Iran. I'm supposed to read this novel for a college course. I was reluctant at first cuz I'm a senior n I wanna focus on the essential material for MA exam. But since I saw a little trailer on utube about Ralph n Isabel I started to feel an urge to start reading it immediately! now I jus finished reading chapter 12. I was crying my heart out just half an hour ago...

    3. Hmm....I don't remember what is there in chapter 12, but I remember crying very hard in the last chapters. You'd better be prepared, then... ;)

  2. Now I'm curious to read this novel. Great post!

    1. And I'm curious too... Did you actually read my 3 intriguing questions that made you curious? I tend to read spoilers just to know what kind of emotion I would get by reading it, well, of course detective & mysteries won't count here.


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