Portrait of a Lady Study Guide (Choose to Continue)


Portrait o a Lady: Chapters 13-15

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Summary – Chapters Thirteen, Fourteen and Fifteen
This refusal of Lord Warburton’s proposal leads her to speak to her uncle about her feelings and he explains he already knew of his intentions as he received a letter from him three days ago. She explains that she likes Lord Warburton, but does not wish to marry anyone ‘just now’. He says he hopes she does not have to pay too much for this desire for space.
Her thoughts turn to Caspar Goodwood and the idea of ‘a diminished liberty’ and ‘a kind of grim fate’. He is the son of a wealthy proprietor of cotton mills in Massachusetts and manages the works at present. He has also invented and patented an improvement on the cotton spinning process, but Isabel cares nothing for this. She does not love him or Lord Warburton, and writes to the latter saying she has considered his proposal but still does not accept it.
While she decides to send the letter, Henrietta invites Ralph to take a walk with her. She asks him for help as she believes Isabel has changed since she left the United States. She wants him to invite Caspar Goodwood to Gardencourt and if Isabel is not fond of him she ought to be. To Henrietta, he is the only man worthy of Isabel.
Ralph eventually gives this serious consideration and says he has not heard Isabel mention his name. Henrietta says she is pleased by this as ‘it proves how much she thinks of him’. Ralph invites Caspar over when it is implied he is in love with Isabel.
Two days later, he receives a note from Caspar thanking him, but regretting he cannot come. Ralph shows it to Henrietta and she says she will write to find out what is happening. She does so, but he does not respond. The chapter ends with Henrietta inviting Isabel to London and Ralph proposes to come too.
In Chapter Fourteen, Isabel waits for Lord Warburton to visit before she sets off for England as she sees it as her duty. He comes with his elder sister and does not look at or speak to Isabel during luncheon. At this meal, Henrietta tells him that she does not approve of him; that is, she does not approve of lords as an institution and supposes she is the first to tell him this.
When Isabel and Lord Warburton are alone, under the pretext of looking at the paintings, he asks if she prefers someone else. She says she would rather not answer this question, but denies it when he pushes her for a response. She tells him she cannot escape her fate of unhappiness and would be trying to escape it if she married him. Later, before dinner, Mrs. Touchett tells Isabel that her husband has informed her of her relations with Lord Warburton. Isabel smiles when Mrs. Touchett says she supposes she refused him because she expects something better.
Mrs. Touchett finally agrees that she was right to turn him down, in Chapter Fifteen, when Isabel tells her that she does not love him enough to marry him. Ralph, Henrietta and Isabel set off for London and when Ralph is alone he thinks of Isabel and knows this can only be an ‘idle pursuit’.
While they see the sights, Henrietta says how she wants to see ‘some of the leading minds of the present’. Ralph knows few people like this, but invites Mr. Bantling to tea. The latter walks in the square with Henrietta afterwards and is receptive to her remarks about the ‘inner life’. He appreciates that Gardencourt must have been quiet for her and suggests she visits his sister (Lady Pensil) to see some ‘genuine English sport’.
The narrative shifts to Ralph and Isabel talking and he tells her that he knows about Lord Warburton’s proposal and asks what her logic was for turning him down.  He adds that if that is her final answer he is glad for himself and she asks if he is also thinking of proposing. He says that would ‘be fatal’ and would be killing the goose that supplies him ‘with the material of my inimitable omelettes’. By this he means he has the thrill ‘of seeing what a young lady does who won’t marry Lord Warburton’. She explains that she does not want to begin her life by marrying as ‘there are other things a woman can do’. Like Henrietta, she wants to see Europe first.
He offers to find her a cab when she wants to return to the hotel and she tells him he is very tired and should go home to bed. He says he is often ‘incommoded’ when people forget he is ill, but it is worse when they remember.
Analysis – Chapters Thirteen, Fourteen and Fifteen
In these chapters, it becomes a little more apparent why Isabel is reluctant to marry. In Chapter Thirteen, she considers marriage to Caspar Goodwood as a form of ‘diminished liberty’ and a kind of ‘grim fate’. This is expanded on further when she explains to Ralph (in Chapter Fifteen) that a woman can do other things apart from marry and does not want to begin her life like this. Isabel thinks of marriage as a form of entrapment at this point and she may be regarded as voicing the opinion of an early feminist. Taking Henrietta’s lead, she desires to see and experience life before committing herself to another.


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