The Portrait of a Lady | Study Guide

Henry James

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The Portrait of a Lady | Chapters 44–45 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 44

Henrietta Stackpole arrives uninvited at the home of Countess Gemini who is making preparations to visit her brother in Rome. Henrietta is leaving for Rome the next day and asks about Isabel Archer. The countess says she heard Lord Warburton is in Rome, "making love" to Isabel. This upsets Henrietta who fears Isabel is unhappy. She is shocked, but the countess says all men do it. Henrietta and Isabel have grown apart since Isabel married, and Henrietta knows Gilbert Osmond dislikes her. She warns Caspar Goodwood, also in Florence, not to go to Rome, but he is not dissuaded from his plan—he wants to see how Isabel is doing. He politely offers to accompany Henrietta on the train to Rome.

Chapter 45

Isabel goes to see Ralph Touchett, although she knows Osmond disapproves. Osmond works to constrain her thoughts, while Ralph is "an apostle of freedom." Isabel thinks Osmond will soon forbid the visits. Isabel asks Ralph if he thinks Lord Warburton loves Pansy Osmond, and Ralph says no, Lord Warburton loves Isabel. She says Lord Warburton ought to leave Pansy alone, as she loves another. Ralph worries Osmond will be angry with Isabel if she doesn't push Lord Warburton to propose, guessing correctly that Osmond has put her up to it. He thinks if Isabel doesn't accomplish Osmond's plan, Osmond will say she didn't because she is jealous of Lord Warburton's love. Isabel is offended.

Isabel asks Pansy what she wants. Pansy wants to marry Edward Rosier, but her father has forbidden it. Isabel agrees it is impossible, then. Pansy is content to go on loving Rosier, even if they can't marry. Isabel forces herself to say that Lord Warburton may propose and that Pansy should "encourage him." Pansy is sure Lord Warburton will not propose because he knows she doesn't want him to. Pansy will not tell her father this, though, because as long as Osmond hopes Lord Warburton will propose, he won't come up with any additional suitors for her.

Analysis

Readers see in Chapter 44 that Henrietta Stackpole still cares for Isabel Archer, although the two have grown apart because of Isabel's marriage to Gilbert Osmond. Henrietta is not bothered by the fact that Osmond dislikes her, and she's not about to let it stop her from checking on Isabel. She is concerned her friend is unhappy, and she is alarmed by the thought Lord Warburton is making romantic advances on Isabel.

The author contrasts American versus European views of extramarital flirting and affairs in Chapter 44. Countess Gemini represents European experience, while Isabel represents American innocence. The countess, having lived in Italy for so long, takes a very accepting, casual view of men flirting with married women; she says all men do it. It is simply an inevitable fact of life. Henrietta has a more American, principled opinion. She is shocked by the suggestion that Lord Warburton is flirting with Isabel—such a scandal could ruin a woman's reputation in America.

The author reveals more of Pansy Osmond's character than ever before in Chapter 45. It seems Pansy's not such a dim bulb after all. Certainly, she still happily submits to her father's will, but she shows her intelligence and perceptiveness and, perhaps, even a bit of her father's ability to manipulate. She knows that her father cannot control whom she loves and that she is free to go on loving Edward Rosier, even if she is not free to marry him. She perceives that Lord Warburton understands she doesn't want him to pursue her. She has no worries at all that he will propose. She decides not to tell her father this piece of information, however, because as long as he still hopes Lord Warburton will propose, he will not suggest another suitor for Pansy to avoid. She effectively controls his response by withholding information, demonstrating she is capable of more than readers had realized until now.

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