A brain wider than the sky

Some are attracted to opposites when they choose a partner, or in my case, to someone fundamentally different. It’s not a bad idea. It can be a clever, albeit painful way to expand one’s consciousness. Of course few write about this better than Henry James does in “Portrait of a Lady” .

In the book Isabel marries Osmond. There are challenges and then we see the consciousness truly expland. The Master as James has been called, our narrator, guides us and cultivates an individual conscious, allowing us to practically merge with Isabel’s mind.

It’s a trip because a novel can be as loose and maluable as any art form but this book comes so close to perfection. At least that’s what everyone says, even Gore Vidal; so I agree. And yes, I feel differently reading it now. It just gets better because it’s practically perfect.

You’d think we could do it on our own, this expansion of the conscious idea, but as social creatures our heart and mind almost always look towards others, and only then can we find internal freedom. And few fought for autonomy like Isabel Archer in Portrait of a Lady. Before and during her life with Osmond. Then she becomes a victim, or is it just staunch individualism, or is she a tragic protagonist. Maybe it’s all the same.

Hopefully we don’t make the same mistake Isabel makes but again, we’re allowed to merge with Isabel’s mind. We go everywhere she does and it’s not as if we can’t understand this desire to be doom-eager; today it’s called social media.

But Isabel is out to learn some serious lessons. It feels effortless, for example, to look at myself through Isabel. I get it. But I was luckier than Isabel. I was attracted to someone inherently good as opposed to Osmond, who is inherently bad. Osmond and his vivid nastiness are on display on almost every page.

I think Emily Dickenson said Henry James had ‘a brain wider than the sky’, so throughout this book we can really inspect Isabel Archer’s consciousness. Yet the ending is odd, as if James suggests it’s time the reader use his own ‘mind’s eye’ to decide whether or not she does leave him. There were certainly issues to iron out, maybe that’s why she went back, then she leaves him, eventually. Who knows.

All I know is through books and dreams and meditation I try and explore my own conscious and sub, whenever possible. It’s a trip and that’s why we read books like this.

Published by baileyalexander

An American living in Piemonte. Sailed across the Atlantic aboard our 43 Nauticat in 2002 and spent over a decade living in Rome, Paris, Prague, Malta, Venice and Bucharest before settling in Piemonte, Italia.

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