The Portrait of a Lady By Henry James Summary and Analysis Chapter 13

Summary

Wondering whether she might be a cold, hard, priggish person, Isabel decides to tell her uncle about Lord Warburton's proposal. Mr. Touchett's first question is whether she accepted. Upon learning that she plans to decline Lord Warburton's offer, he tells her that he has known about Lord Warburton's intentions because he received a letter stating them three days earlier. He then questions Isabel about her reasons for refusing such a grand person. She herself does not know her exact reasons except that she doesn't wish to marry anyone at the present moment.

Alone, she thinks about the "amount of diminished liberty" she would have as the wife of Lord Warburton. She then thinks of Caspar Goodwood and his letter and decides not to answer it. Instead, she writes Lord Warburton her refusal, stating that she is unable to see herself as his companion for a lifetime.

Henrietta Stackpole finds Ralph Touchett and asks for help. She wants Ralph to invite Caspar Goodwood to Gardencourt so that he can check Isabel's Europeanization. Ralph questions Henrietta about Caspar Goodwood and then agrees to issue an invitation, even though he thinks it not in good taste.

Two days later Ralph receives a note from Caspar Goodwood declining the invitation. Henrietta therefore suggests to Isabel that they make a journey to London to see the sights of that city. Ralph volunteers to go with them, and they plan to leave in a few days.

Analysis

The beginning of this chapter illustrates another of James' techniques. In the last chapter, Isabel received a proposal. This chapter devotes itself in part to a discussion of that event, thereby illustrating James' technique of recording an event and then exploring its implications. In this case, Isabel chooses Mr. Touchett as her confidant. Her choice, of course, makes it more acceptable for Mr. Touchett later to leave Isabel money. In other words, there is a close friendship developing between these two.

In the discussion, we find out more about Isabel's reasons for refusing Lord Warburton. Again, it is a matter of her liberty and a feeling that she has not yet seen enough of life. But the subject is not closed. It will be rounded out more in her next interview with Lord Warburton.

Moreover, Isabel's reasons are further elaborated by her letter to Lord Warburton, in which she says that she cannot picture herself as his wife.

Henrietta is used in this chapter to suggest that Isabel is altering. Of course, this is a part of Isabel's charm and attraction. She does not remain static, but is constantly undergoing a change. Henrietta's presumptuousness is seen in her request to Ralph that Caspar Goodwood be invited to Gardencourt. Goodwood's superior taste is demonstrated by his refusal.

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