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Portrait of a Lady Summary & Analysis
by T. S. Eliot

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T. S. Eliot's "Portrait of a Lady" is a long narrative poem that describes a young man's visits to the home of an older female acquaintance (the lady of the title). Their meetings, in the speaker's mind, are stilted and monotonous; though the lady wishes to form a deeper connection with the speaker, the social conventions of polite society seem to prevent either person from sharing how they truly feel, and their relationship remains shallow and strained. This free verse poem is divided into three parts, tracking the speaker's visits to this woman's home over the course of about a year, at which point he breaks things off and moves abroad. Written during Eliot's year in Paris from 1910-1911, "Portrait of a Lady" is an example of the Modernist poet's highly influential early work, which plays on themes such as social rituals, isolation, and unrequited love to explore the anxieties of the modern world.

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