Platonic Allegory in Henry James’s The Portrait of a Lady

Yesim Sultan Yasar, Beture Memmedova


Plato’s famous allegory was employed while analyzing a number of famous literary pieces like Gulliver’s Travels, Wings, The Man Who Lived Underground, and The Bluest Eye. Though Henry James’s masterpiece The Portrait of a Lady is not mentioned among these novels written by different writers in different periods, I will try to show that the allegory is an apt tool when analyzing Isabel Archer’s character, the protagonist of the novel. Just as the prisoners are able to see only the shadows reflected on the wall, so does Isabel see the shadows of real life. She faces up the realities of life step by step. She is like Plato’s prisoners who are suddenly released from their bondage and “pained and dazzled and unable to see the things whose shadows they’d seen before.” It is not surprising that each step takes her to suffering and frustration, and it is only through experience that she becomes aware of the truth. However, because of her strong sense of duty and dignity, she does not get rid of her chains completely.

DOI: 10.5901/ajis.2012.v2n4p283

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Academic Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies ISSN 2281 3993(Print) ISSN 2281-4612(Online)

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