Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Don't go up the stairs! You moron!

Current book: The Portrait of a Lady
Pages read: 260 - 353

I lied about Rome and Venice; it was actually Florence. Um, sorry? Anyway, like I said, Isabel decides she likes Gilbert Osmond because he seems to know what is right and think the absolute best of himself at all times. (Which, as we the readers can see, actually makes him a pedantic asshole, but there you are. Of course, we also know that he's after her money.) Eventually he proposes to her and, though she takes a few months to think about it and travel the globe, she accepts him. Caspar Goodwood (who comes to renew his courtship) is pissed off, Lord Warburton (whom Isabel stumbles upon in Rome (no, really Rome this time, I swear)) is hurt, and Ralph Touchett (who's been hanging around the whole time) is stricken with ill health (to be fair, he was already troubled by long-term illness, but still) as a result. Everyone hates the match except for Madame Merle, which only increases Isabel's determination to make the marriage work.

It's like watching a horror movie during which you feel compelled to instruct the main character not to do the idiotic things that she's doing because of the fact that they'll surely result in her death. Unfortunately, there's nothing to be done. Some part of me wants to believe that James is trying to criticize the difficulties that society creates for women who want to be independent, but it seems to me more like he's saying that women need to accept what's good for them and settle down to marriage before they're swept off by disastrous wooers. (That's right. I said wooers.) This is probably unfair, but I get the feeling that if I had been alive at the time and had ever met Henry James, I would have found him a bit hysterical. (In the sense of reactionary, not amusing. Amusing is not really a word we use for ol' Henry.)

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