The Portrait of a Lady By Henry James Critical Essays James' Use of the Foreshadowing and Contrast

James is a very careful artist who uses rather often and freely the technique of foreshadowing a later action. This means that he has given hints in the early parts of the novel about some important thing that is going to happen later in the story. Thus, a touch of realism is added to the novel because so many things have foreshadowed the main action that the reader should not be surprised to discover the action at the end.

For example, early in the novel there are many hints that too much independence will get a person in trouble. Accordingly, it is Isabel's absolute desire for independence that made her ignore the advice of others and rely solely upon her own Judgment in marrying Osmond. Likewise, there are many hints that Isabel must suffer. Consequently, we are not surprised to find her suffering at the end of the novel. She is also a person who puts much emphasis on her promises and vows. So she must return to Osmond because of her marriage vows and her promise to Pansy. Thus, every action that is central to the novel has been prepared for by hints and many types of foreshadowing.

Aside from the use of Social Contrasts (see previous section on this subject), James also used contrast in many other ways. There are many people surrounding Isabel. The contrast between Henrietta Stackpole and Madame Merle enables us to see how Isabel can attract different people to her. Through this contrast, we come to believe that Isabel has expansive qualities which allow her to react to varying types of people. Thus such differing people as Lord Warburton, Osmond, and Caspar Goodwood all find themselves in love with Isabel. This fact also attests to Isabel's charm and personality.

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