Portrait of a Lady Study Guide (Choose to Continue)


Portrait o a Lady: Chapters 25-27

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Summary – Chapters Twenty Five, Twenty Six and Twenty Seven
While Osmond and Isabel talk in Chapter Twenty Five, the Countess Gemini asks Madame Merle, ‘haven’t you a little plan that you think rather well of?’ Madame Merle claims to not understand her; nevertheless, the Countess continues and says she does not think ill of her for calculating, but thinks she is wrong in this case. She likes Isabel and says that the scheme that Madame Merle and Osmond are planning is dangerous and she will talk to the girl. Madame Merle responds by saying she thinks Isabel does not like the Countess and it would be to no avail. The Countess says ‘ah, you are dangerous even by yourself!’
Their conversation turns to Pansy and the Countess presumes Madame Merle will find her a husband too. She answers that she will take an interest ‘in her marrying fortunately’ and presumes the Countess will do the same. She refutes this, as her marriage is unhappy and there are no good husbands (including Osmond). She ends by saying she trembles for Isabel’s happiness, as her brother is ‘very hard to satisfy’.
In Chapter Twenty Six, we are told Osmond visits Mrs. Touchett’s home five times in a fortnight whereas he usually only comes twice a year. Ralph does not flatter himself that he comes to see him ‘to repair a past injustice’; he sees that Isabel is the attraction.
Mrs. Touchett wonders if Osmond would still be as disinterested (after marrying Isabel) when he spends her money. Ralph says he is not afraid for Isabel and does not think she will change her course for him. Mrs. Touchett is not so reassured and expresses her fears to Madame Merle. When asked if he is ‘making love’ to her niece, Madame Merle looks astonished and says she will investigate and report back.
Isabel is unaware of these events and thinks Osmond does not talk for effect and sees his daughter as a blank sheet of paper. She is visited by the Countess, and Mrs. Touchett does not feel honored by this because of the rumors that she consoled herself ‘outrageously’ after she was married disastrously (as arranged by her mother).
Henrietta also calls on Isabel who tells her she has turned to looking at the ‘outer life’ on the Continent. Having been to Venice, she is going on to Rome and Ralph suggests Isabel goes too under his escort (as well as Mr. Bantling). Isabel sees Osmond before they go and he says he should like to be in Rome with her. She says, ‘you might come then’ and says he can bring Pansy with him.
After she leaves Florence, Osmond tells Madame Merle at the Countess’s home that Isabel wants him to go to Rome with her and she says, ‘you mean that you proposed it and she assented’. He agrees, but says she was encouraging and Madame Merle’s idea has made him work. He says Isabel is ‘not disagreeable’ and she asks if that is all he can find to say. He reminds her that she has not heard him say more about other people. At last she murmurs, ‘I’m frightened of the abyss into which I shall have cast her’. He takes this ‘almost gaily’ and says she cannot draw back as she has gone too far.
When she rises to leave, he does too and outside she tells him he is too indiscreet and he says he forgot as he is out of habit. He compliments Isabel now, but says she has one fault: too many ideas.
In Rome, in Chapter Twenty Seven, Isabel is moved by the history and sights but is quieter than usual. As she sits alone at one end of the Forum, as Ralph watches the archaeologists at the other, Lord Warburton comes over to her. He had no idea she would be in Rome and he is just passing through from the East. He sits with her and they talk and he says he has written to her several times, but burned the letters rather than sent them. He is ‘exactly the same’ and loves her just as much, and her answer is the same. He says he is staying in Rome for a couple of weeks and promises to be ‘very careful’ with her. She says ‘poor Lord Warburton’ and he agrees.
The narrative shifts to Sunday at St. Peter’s and she is in Lord Warburton’s company when she encounters Osmond. She says the others are inside and he says he has not come for them. She remembers Lord Warburton saying something similar when he came to Gardencourt to propose and repairs ‘any betrayal’ by introducing the two men to each other.
When the ‘others’ return, Ralph and Lord Warburton walk away a little and Lord Warburton wonders if Isabel will ‘accept’ Osmond. Ralph says, ‘perhaps not if one does nothing to prevent it’. This chapter and volume ends with Ralph saying Isabel wants ‘nothing that we can give her’ and his Lordship says, ‘Ah well, if she won’t have you - !’
Analysis – Chapters Twenty Five, Twenty Six and Twenty Seven
Madame Merle’s duplicity continues to be highlighted when she looks astonished at the thought of Osmond ‘making love’ to Isabel’. This is further emphasized when she talks to Osmond of the continuing plan for him to marry her. She murmurs that she is frightened of the abyss she is throwing Isabel into, and yet this does not stop her ongoing scheme for her to marry him.
Isabel remains ignorant of their history and the scheme to marry her off and it is apparent that at this point in the narrative she still believes she is in control of her fate.


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