Portrait of a lady

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  • Portrait of a lady
    • Form
      • Assonance and rhyme creates a sound like the music theme that runs throughout
      • Some lines run into each other, to show that it is like a flowing conversation.
    • Context
      • Modernism
    • Meaning
      • Part I
        • The "smoke and fog of a December afternoon" could represent confusion and an end.
        • "Juliet's tomb" obviously links to Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, which could help to represent the end of a relationship.
        • The narrator is constantly getting at how unimportant things like social-etiquette are to him. For example, "you have the scene arrange itself-as it will seem to do" and the talk of "friendship" norms
        • Constant references to music- "Preludes," "Chopin," "cornets" and "violins," etc..
        • The second stanza in part I has a very harsh tone, backed up by the use of alliteration, such as "cracked cornets". It talks about how the woman's voice is like a "dull tom-tom," and how it's "hammering" it's way into his head.
          • It finally goes back to the idea of social etiquette again, by talking about how they will correct their "watches by public clocks."
      • Part II
        • The woman "twists" the lilacs, showing that she is trying to manipulate the man.
          • Despite her efforts, she cannot find the man's "Achilles' heel," and she begins to wonder what does she have to give him? She is "about to reach journey's end."
        • She tries to give him advice about how "youth is cruel," but he doesn't listen, he just does as he is supposed to and goes "on drinking tea."
        • Brings in the idea of "Spring, which contrasts with the previous idea of the relationship ending like the year, with "December."
        • The poem soon begins with the harsh tone again and brings it back to August, where the year isn't quite over yet, but it is getting there. It also brings back in the idea of music with "broken violin."
        • The man leaves and begins to recite boring things, like reading the newspaper , that seem to be a part of social etiquette. He is fine until he hears a "street-piano" reciting some "worn-out common song."
          • Without her there, he call enjoy the normal things in life, like the "smell of hyacinths". He begins to question himself, much like Prufrock, as to whether these ideas "right or wrong."
      • Part III
        • We begin on an "October night," again, a month quite close to the end of the year. The man is returning to see his lover, but there is much imagery to support the view that he doesn't want to and is struggling to do so. "I had mounted on my hands and knees."
        • It is revealed that the man is going "abroad." She does not take this news well, though she attempts to regain her cool.
        • The idea of social expectations is heavy in this part. She tells him that she knows he "will write, at any rate." and that she will continue "serving tea to" her friends, as if nothing had happened.
          • The idea is continued into the lines: "dance, dance Like a dancing bear, Cry like a parrot, chatter like an ape."
        • The poem, funnily enough, ends with a "dying fall." He begins to wonder what it would be like if she died and how he would feel about it. The ending is quite ambiguous, so we aren't sure if he is feeling guilty or not.


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