The Portrait of a Lady By Henry James Summary and Analysis Chapter 21

Summary

Mrs. Touchett, true to her nature, leaves Paris on the day that she had previously set for her departure. Accompanied by Isabel, she stops by the Mediterranean to see her son. Isabel takes the first available opportunity to ask Ralph if he knew that Mr. Touchett planned to leave her so much money. He reveals that he did know and told her it was left as a compliment on her "so beautifully existing." Isabel wonders if it was wise to leave her so much money and tells Ralph that Henrietta thinks it bad for her. Ralph tells her not to think so much about things but just to respond to them. He suggests that the money will allow her to "spread her wings [and] rise above the ground."

Analysis

With each chapter, Ralph is developing more and more into Isabel's private confidant. She turns to him to express delicately her most private thoughts. But she never exceeds the bounds of propriety. In this chapter, it becomes quite evident that Ralph thinks that Isabel will use her new wealth to develop her capacity to the fullest. This is all that Ralph asks of Isabel.

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