~manda~ (jumplilkid) wrote in classycafe,

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The Portrait Of A Lady

Last semester we read this excerpt in my AP Lit class. I was very interested in it and was wondering if any of you had read the book before. Things like this intrigue me, so any other recommendations would also be appreciated.

"When you've lived as long as I you'll see that every human being has his shell and that you must take the shell into account. By the shell I mean the whole envelope of circumstances. There's no such thing as an isolated man or woman; we're each of us made up of some cluster of appurtenances. What shall we call our 'self'? Where does it begin? Where does it end? It overflows into everything that belongs to us- and then it flows back again. I know a large part of myself is in the clothes I choose to wear. I've a great respect for things! One's self- for other people- is one's expression of one's self; and one's house, one's furniture, one's garments, the books one reads, the company one keeps- these things are all expressive."
This was very metaphysical; not more so, however, than several observations Madame Merle had already made. Isabel was fond of metaphysics, but was unable to accompany her friend into this bold analysis of the human personality. "I don't agree with you. I think just the other way. I don't know whether I succeed in expressing myself, but I know that nothing else expresses me. Nothing that belongs to me is any measure of me; everything's on the contrary a limit, a barrier, and a perfectly arbitrary one. Certainly the clothes which, as you say, I choose to wear, don't express me; and heaven forbid they should!"
"You dress very well," Madame Merle lightly interposed.
"Possibly; but I don't care to be judged by that. My clothes may express the dressmaker, but they don't express me. To begin with it's not my own choice that I wear them; they're imposed uopn me by society."
"Should you prefer to go without then?" Madame Merle inquired in a tone which virtually terminated the discussion.

Also, I was wondering what your thoughts on this were.
In my opinion, Madame Merle presents the most realistic view, and I would tend to agree with her the most. I know that hers seems to be the most wordly of the two, but the world is still a part of us whether we want it to be or not. Isabel expresses how I wish 'self' could be defined, but I don't think it takes into account all aspects which have influence on us. It's hard to determine who is correct between two extreme opinions. Both bring up very valid points. It makes me have to think alot. Maybe that's why I like it so much.
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