The Portrait of a Lady

Grooming Her for His Satisfaction: Osmond, Pansy, and Misogyny in 'The Portrait of a Lady' 12th Grade

Although still a global issue today, misogyny in the time period of Henry James’s The Portrait of a Lady stemmed from the quantification of a woman’s value from what she can contribute to males rather than her character. The author explores this concept through the dynamic between Gilbert Osmond, the only suitor to capture the protagonist’s attention, and his adolescent daughter, Pansy. His maintenance of authority over her reveals his biased opinion of females.

Osmond maintains an authoritative role over his daughter, Pansy, and takes advantage of his power over her to groom her into a personality shaped by her submission and urge to satisfy figures of superiority. While visiting her daughter at the convent, he is excited by the nuns’ positive feedback concerning his daughter. When he repeats sister Catherine’s compliment of Pansy’s thorough preparation for entrance into society at large, Osmond’s daughter worriedly responds by staring at her father “with her pure young eyes. ‘Am I not meant for you, papa?’” (12). The narrator’s diction of the phrase “pure young eyes” emphasizes Pansy’s impressionability, which her father has manipulated. She eagerly seeks a definite confirmation of her father’s approval after a lifetime of...

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