A Philosophical Approach Towards the Concept of Freedom in Henry James’s The Portrait of a Lady

Mahdi Shamsi


Freedom is one of the major elements in Henry James’s The Portrait of a Lady. In an age when American women were usually engaged or married, James’s heroine, Isabel, was somewhat ahead of her time in hoping for a marriage in which she could still be independent. She was very fond of her liberty and afraid of losing it, but does her return to her husband, Osmond, at the end of the novel suggest that she has put an end to her eagerness for freedom? It is an underlying argument of this study that James’s novel, in its last scene, covers a different aspect of freedom which, through a Schopenhauerian approach, delivers a different insight into liberty. This perception of freedom in The Portrait of a Lady has never been considered in connection with Arthur Schopenhauer’s view on the experience of freedom. The implicit critical point on which the paper is founded is that, although Schopenhauer is not conspicuously mentioned in James’s notes, there is important evidence that shows the convergence between the thoughts of Schopenhauer and Henry James; that is, that evidence through which this study aims to analyse the heroine’s final decision in the last scene.


Independence, marriage, resignation, philosophy of positive and negative freedom

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7575/aiac.ijalel.v.4n.6p.64


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