The Portrait of a Lady | Study Guide

Henry James

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The Portrait of a Lady | Chapters 10–11 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 10

Isabel Archer receives a letter from Henrietta Stackpole announcing she has just arrived in England. Mr. Touchett says Isabel may invite her friend to come to stay at Gardencourt, and Isabel assures Mr. Touchett and Ralph Touchett that she will ask Henrietta not to write about the family in her newspaper articles, which she agrees to, much to her disappointment. Henrietta plans to write about the lives of the Europeans she meets for The Interviewer, and she hopes to profile the aristocracy. She agrees, reluctantly, not to profile the Touchetts. Henrietta thinks Ralph is idle and unpatriotic, but Ralph isn't bothered by her criticisms, responding mostly with jokes. Henrietta says it is Ralph's duty to marry. Ralph takes her to be suggesting he marry her, and she is offended at this conclusion.

Ralph and Isabel discuss Henrietta and her unique personality. Ralph recognizes there is something of the future in Henrietta that, he jokes, "almost knocks one down!"

Chapter 11

Mrs. Touchett dislikes Henrietta. She finds Henrietta to be "an adventuress and a bore," but she thinks Isabel may be friends with whomever she chooses. Henrietta dislikes Mrs. Touchett in return, believing her to be classist.

Henrietta tells Isabel she traveled to England by steamer on the same ship as Caspar Goodwood. Isabel is dismayed that Henrietta encouraged Caspar's interest in her. Henrietta finds that Isabel has changed.

Isabel receives a letter from Caspar Goodwood, reflecting on their last meeting in Albany. He was confused, then, at to why she, who had encouraged him and who liked him, could give him no reason for turning down his affections. He tells her he followed her to England, and asks if he may come and see her. She finishes reading the letter and finds Lord Warburton in front of her.

Analysis

In Chapter 10 readers learn more of Henrietta Stackpole, seeing her in action for the first time. She is full of opinions, which she expresses bluntly and freely. Her personality may remind readers of Mrs. Touchett's, so it is hardly a surprise (and perhaps a little comical) that the two women dislike each other. Two people so convicted of the correctness of their own numerous and strongly held opinions are bound to clash. Readers learn in Chapter 11 that Henrietta is well acquainted with Caspar Goodwood, and she is in favor of his feelings for Isabel. Readers can place Henrietta on Team Caspar, although she has yet to meet Lord Warburton.

In Chapter 11 the author develops the character of Caspar Goodwood. In Caspar's letter we see that Isabel gave him no reason for turning him down. He doesn't understand why she changed her treatment and opinion of him. His letter shows his distress and confusion. He has been frustrated, but he is determined to pursue her. Caspar has traveled across an ocean, leaving his business in New York, all in hopes of changing her mind, of winning her love. Readers may wonder if he is the hero of the novel, or if his determination to marry Isabel will make him the villain, ending her goal of seeing the world and being independent before she weds.

In both chapters Henry James uses letters to communicate the inner thoughts and feelings of characters, as well as to drive the plot and provide background information and alternative points of view. Whole books in the form of a collection of letters between characters (called epistolary novels) were popular as early forms of the novel. The author uses letters here to communicate more of Henrietta's and Caspar's personalities, intentions, memories, and feelings. Each letter signals a change in the plot as well as the arrival of a new character.

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