Isabel’s Inheritance in the Novel The Portrait of a Lady

Also Read

      The inheritance is of central significance for it puts Isabel in a position of dominance and complete independence. Undoubtedly Isabel’s inheritance is the first major determining incident of the plot. This first climax turns the table altogether. Isabel before this, is a young, beautiful and vivacious girl, with a great curiosity about life and world. She has enough money. But after the inheritance she can be easily called a wealthy person. Ralph was interested in Isabel’s inheritance because he thought that it would help her meet the requirements of her imagination”.

      Isabel has always loved and desired total freedom. The inheritance makes her completely free. Now she has no financial cares, no ties which must be maintained, no compulsion of history, no social sophistication—nothing can stop her from doing what she likes.

      With this first climax of the novel Isabel has the choice of ‘becoming’ what she wishes. This idea of ‘becoming’ is according to James, the ‘cornerstone’ of her character. After Isabel has inherited a large fortune there are no material restrictions and thus James can concentrate on the development of her character. Structurally too, the inheritance is of central significance. It is money which inspires Madame Merle to ‘use’ her. Later on we find that it is money which determines Osmond’s attitudes in general.

      If Isabel had been wealthy right from the start, all her development and growth would have been fringed with restrictions imposed by wealth, On the other hand, her poverty would have never given her so much of freedom and choices. The inheritance determines the direction of the novel, it gives the unspoiled Isabel a brave new world to explore.

Previous Post Next Post