The Portrait of a Lady

Treatment of the Independant Female in The Portrait of a Lady and Jane Eyre

Assignment: Discuss the treatment of female independence and the independent heroine in two Victorian novels.

Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte, and The Portrait of a Lady, by Henry James, both utilise the Victorian convention of the orphaned heroine that is forced to find her own way in the world. Treatment of female independence and the independent heroine in Jane Eyre is explored through the integrity of the self, the quest for truth and the journey to selfhood, while The Portrait of a Lady explores the destructive power of oppressive marriage and the need for a global education. Both novels represent a departure from the conventional Victorian heroine as articulated by George Eliot in "Silly Novels by Lady Novelists" and JS Mill in "The Subjection of Women". However, while Jane Eyre explores a domesticated conception of female independence and achieves a domesticised fulfillment, Isabel Archer in The Portrait of a Lady seeks a wider conception of liberty which is portrayed as ultimately unachievable.

A central theme of Jane Eyre is the importance of integrity of the self for an independent heroine. This is apparent by Jane's need to resolve the dialectics of passion and reason within her self. Firstly,...

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