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Few issues in the Jamesian corpus have been more controversial than Isabel Archer’s decision to return to her cruel husband Gilbert Osmond at the end of The Portrait of a Lady. While critics have often thought of Isabel’s decision as either unrealistic, unjustifiable, or misguided, her choice becomes more rational when viewed within the context of a Bakhtinian polyphonic novel. By seeing the novel as a free-flowing novel of voices about the nature of freedom, Isabel’s choice can be explained as holding true to her belief that “freedom” means holding steadfast to one’s responsibilities, a conclusion she reaches by synthesizing other ideas about freedom she has learned from other female characters in the novel. Portrait therefore is a “novel of voice”, where characters like Isabel reach self-actualization by interacting with speech, unrestrained and unprivileged, and creating a new, autonomous, unified self out of it.