The Portrait of a Lady By Henry James Summary and Analysis Chapters 3-4

Summary

Isabel's aunt has several peculiarities. For example, she long ago recognized the fact that she and her husband did not desire the same things in life; therefore, she decided to set up a house in Florence and pay wifely visits to her husband once a year. She also makes trips to America to keep in touch with some of her property there. Some years earlier, Mrs. Touchett quarreled with Mr. Archer, and they broke relations with each other. After Mr. Archer's death, she journeyed to Albany, New York, in order to inquire about her nieces. The two older sisters were married, but the youngest, Isabel, seemed to desire other things in life. Mrs. Touchett offered to take Isabel to live in Europe for a time.

Isabel's older sister, Mrs. Ludlow, was delighted to hear of Isabel's opportunity to visit Europe. She thought Isabel would have "a chance to develop." Isabel had always been the more intellectual of the three sisters. When young men came to visit, they always thought that they had to be exceptionally intelligent in order to converse with Isabel. There was, however, one named Caspar Goodwood who wished to marry Isabel. He traveled far just to see Isabel but received no encouragement.

Analysis

Chapter 3 fills in the background information and gives the reader more knowledge about Isabel. For example, in Isabel's first encounter with her aunt, we see that she was quite anxious to go to Europe, but she was just as anxious to retain her own freedom. She told Mrs. Touchett that it would not be possible to promise to do everything her aunt wanted her to do, but just the same, she -would promise almost anything."

James begins to introduce his theme more definitely in Chapter 4. Mrs. Ludlow told her husband that she wanted Isabel to go to Europe in order to have a "chance to develop." Thus, throughout the novel, we must watch to see just how much Isabel is capable of developing.

In his description, James suggests that Isabel is a rather intelligent and formidable person who reads considerably. However, Isabel would definitely prefer direct experience to that gained by reading. Consequently, she must be taken to Europe so as to be given the opportunity of experiencing various aspects of life firsthand.

The last part of Chapter 4 presents the character of Caspar Goodwood. As his name suggests, he is a high caliber person who does not weakly accept defeat. We should also note that he is a man who inspired Isabel "with a sentiment of high, of rare respect."

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