Surprisingly few critics have discussed parallels between the conclusion of The Portrait of a Lady and that of Jane Eyre: but they are many and serve further to highlight the differences in self-formative visions between the British and American spiritual traditions. Just as at the end of Jane Eyre, Jane finds herself alone in the final of many confrontations with the wrong man, St. John Rivers, Isabel like-wise must face the equally persistent Caspar Goodwood. . . . so many elements of traditional conversion are apparent in Brontë's novel, including reading of the scripture, a "calling" in the form of Mr. Rochester's voice, and a sensible, Wesleyan "heartwarming" experience: the conversion event in its entirety successfully marries spirit and flesh, impulse and action. While for Isabel the moment is equally decisive, James inverts its effects in such a way that, rather than affirming the value of hearing and accepting a "calling" that leads toward active happiness Isabel's "revelation" consists in a turning away from action once more toward the antinomian stillness of foregone conclusions. [138]


Bennett, Kelsey L. Principle and Propensity: Experience and Religion in the Nineteenth-Century British and American Bildungsroman. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2014. [Review]

Last modified 18 November 2014