Portrait of a Lady Study Guide (Choose to Continue)


Portrait o a Lady: Chapters 7-9

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Summary – Chapters Seven, Eight and Nine
Before Isabel’s arrival, Ralph was steeped in melancholy with worry about his father’s health. She becomes a form of ‘high entertainment’ and he assures himself he is not in love with her. He wonders what she will do with herself and realizes that with most women he would not have the occasion to ask this.
Lord Warburton is invited over and stays for two nights. Mrs. Touchett insists that Isabel does not stay alone downstairs with him and Ralph and reminds her that she is not in Albany now. She says that in this country in decent houses young girls do not sit alone with gentlemen late at night. Isabel concedes and says although she does not understand, she is glad to know this information. She wants to know the things one should and should not do. Her aunt asks if this is so she can do them; Isabel replies it is ‘so as to choose’.
In Chapter Eight, Lord Warburton extracts a promise from Mrs. Touchett to bring Isabel to his house. When Isabel talks to him, she gathers that he is a nobleman of ‘the newest pattern’ and he tells her there are no conservatives like American conservatives.
As they talk, she realizes he is modest, intelligent and kind and she tells Ralph that she likes him. He says he feels the same and loves him as well, but he pities him more. He thinks Lord Warburton does not believe in himself and the power he has. When Isabel speaks to her uncle, he advises that she does not fall in love with him and she says she will only do so with his recommendation. He then tells her how Lord Warburton wants to do away with many things, but seems to want to remain himself and there are a number like this in society. She says she hopes there will be a revolution and she will be on both sides. He thinks the upper classes with radical views have them as a kind of amusement, as a luxury, and she asks him if he pities Lord Warburton as Ralph does. He tells her he does ‘after all’.
Lord Warburton’s sisters come to see Isabel in Chapter Nine. Their friendliness is described as being so great that they are afraid to show it, but they do invite her to luncheon at Lockleigh where they live with their brother.
When Isabel visits, she asks them questions (as she does other people) and enquires if their brother is a great radical. They say he is, but he is also reasonable. She asks if he is sincere and if he would stand the test of giving all this up; they do not fully understand her.
Later, Isabel and Lord Warburton talk and he says he hopes to see her more often in the future. He tells her she has charmed him and this strikes her ‘as the prelude to something grave’. She has no wish at the moment for this prelude to have a sequel and says there is no prospect of her returning, but agrees there is nothing to prevent him coming to Gardencourt. They talk more and he says she judges the English from the outside and wants to amuse herself. She hears a note of bitterness in his voice and becomes afraid she has hurt him. She has often heard the English are eccentric and has read that ‘at bottom’ they are the most romantic of races. His good manners prevail, though, and he explains himself with a little laugh (that she does not amuse herself with trifles). As they part, he says he will come and see her next week. The surprise is not altogether a painful one, but she replies ‘just as you please’ coldly from a certain fear.
Analysis – Chapters Seven, Eight and Nine
At the beginning of Chapter Seven, Ralph wonders what will become of Isabel and realizes he would not think that about other women. It is suggested that because of her independence and original thinking he does not expect her to follow the traditional route of marriage as others of her generation.
Her reluctance to marry has already been seen when Caspar Goodwood left feeling defeated after coming to see her at the end of Chapter Four and when Lord Warburton demonstrates he cares for her at the end of Chapter Nine it is possible to see that she begins to draw away from him. Although the thought of him visiting is not altogether painful, she replies coldly from a ‘certain fear’ that he will propose too.


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