Saturday, August 11, 2012

Portrait of a Lady

Finished Henry James' Portrait of a Lady this week.  Not my favorite book ever, but it had its good points.  I guess the best part about the book is the independent women.  Isabel Archer Osmond, while not the best example because she does end up marrying a misogynistic scum-bag, is a fiery character with lots of great ideas for herself and her future.  I may be wrong, but I think most women during that day and age were not given many opportunities to express their opinions or do what they wanted to do, so in a way this lifestyle is pretty revolutionary for its time.  Isabel wouldn't just marry the first rich guy to cross her path.  She sort of rejects three guys before she settles down.  But, UNfortunately, she is still sort of used and abused by society and ends up getting pushed into an "arranged" marriage after all. And in this marriage, she is stripped of a lot of her agency as a woman. So, like I said, she's not the best example.
But there are others.  Look at Herietta Stackpole, for example.  She not only gets married until the end of the book, but she's a business woman!  She writes!  How often do you see one of THOSE in nineteenth-century novels.  A woman of letters!  In the book, lots of people don't have a lot of respect for her.  She's intimidating and modern.  But I appreciate her spunk and her willingness to just do what she wants and serve those she loves.
My favorite character in the book is Ralph Touchett.  He's the most loyal, sweet, and wise person in the book.  The one who's always there, always willing to forgive, even if you make the stupid choice.  I'm glad Isabel learns to really appreciate him in the end.
 Something I learned from this book that I want to take with me into my own relationships:  First impressions can be very deceiving.  When you are dating someone, try to get to know the ENTIRE person before you decide to settle down with them.  Isabel thought she knew her husband Gilbert really well, but it turns out that he was not only a sour, somewhat emotionally abusive codger, but he was in some pretty big scandals in his younger years.  No wife ever wants to find out what Isabel finds out about Gilbert.  So watch out!  Demand honesty in a relationship.  Settle for nothing less than someone who loves you entirely.  Someone who will put you first and respect your opinions, not wish you didn't have any.  Sure, people make mistakes and they deserve a second chance, but keeping it a secret is not the way you go about deserving that second chance.  I never liked Gilbert Osmond from the start.  But more and more he is reminding me of some people I've seen in my life that I invested too much in.  They always end up disappointing you, but it's hard to leave them once you've started.  The very end of this book reflects that truth.

Listening to:  Officer Jenny's Album, "Grape Crayons."  It's super indie.
Things Going On Today:  Ran errands with dad.  Grocery shopping with mom.  It's good to be home.
Blessings:  Home.  Cars.  Coupons.
Learned:  How to change the oil in a car.

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