Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Henry James's The Portrait of a Lady. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.
The Portrait of a Lady: Introduction
The Portrait of a Lady: Plot Summary
The Portrait of a Lady: Detailed Summary & Analysis
The Portrait of a Lady: Themes
The Portrait of a Lady: Quotes
The Portrait of a Lady: Characters
The Portrait of a Lady: Symbols
The Portrait of a Lady: Theme Wheel
Brief Biography of Henry James
Historical Context of The Portrait of a Lady
Other Books Related to The Portrait of a Lady
- Full Title: The Portrait of a Lady
- When Written: 1879-1881
- Where Written: London, Paris, Florence, Rome, and Venice
- When Published: First published as a serial in America’s The Atlantic and England’s Macmiltan’s Magazine in 1880-1881. First published as a novel in 1881 and extensively revised in 1908.
- Literary Period: Realism and modernism
- Genre: Psychological realism
- Setting: England, Italy, France, and the United States
- Climax: Isabel, sitting in her room, reflects on her unhappy marriage and considers the events that led her here.
- Antagonist: Madame Merle and Gilbert Osmond
- Point of View: Third person
Extra Credit for The Portrait of a Lady
Family Inspiration. Critics agree that James based the The Portrait of a Lady’s Isabel Archer on his beloved cousin, the energetic and charismatic Minny Temple, who tragically died at age twenty-four.
Brotherly Influence. Despite a keen rivalry throughout their lives, it seems that siblings Henry and William James influenced one another greatly. Henry James is much admired for the intense psychological modes performed in his works, while his brother was a psychologist often described as writing like a novelist, even publishing some of his own pieces in literary outlets.