The Portrait of a Lady By Henry James Summary and Analysis Chapters 36-38

Summary

Some four years later, young Edward Rosier rings at Madame Merle's apartment. He has come to tell Madame Merle of his love for Pansy Osmond and his fear that Mr. Osmond does not think highly of him. He wonders if Madame Merle can intercede in his behalf. Madame Merle explains to him that Pansy's fate lies almost totally with her father and that Isabel could not help him, since she and her husband seldom agree on anything. She advises Rosier to let the matter rest for a while and she will make discreet inquiries.

Sometime later at a party at the Osmond's, Rosier seeks out the company of Pansy. As soon as they are alone, he expresses his affection for Pansy. She does not repel Edward but admits that she likes him.

When Madame Merle arrives, she talks with Osmond about Mr. Rosier's intentions. Osmond lets it be known that he has better things in mind for Pansy. He tells Madame Merle that it doesn't matter if Pansy likes Mr. Rosier, because his daughter has been brought up to obey him. Madame Merle recommends that Rosier not be completely dismissed, since he might prove to be useful later on.

When Rosier appeals to Isabel for help, she responds that it is not in her power. A week later Rosier attempts to speak to Osmond but is rudely insulted and told that Pansy has no recollection of having declared her affections to Rosier. He intimates that Pansy has forgotten her suitor. The young man instantly seeks out Isabel and asks what Osmond has done to Pansy. Isabel reassures him that Pansy has not given him up.

At this moment, Isabel receives an unexpected visitor. It is Lord Warburton, who has just arrived from England. He tells Isabel that he has brought Ralph Touchett with him. Ralph has been steadily declining and is not expected to live too long. He came to Rome thinking that the southern climate would help prolong his life. Isabel promises to go to him as soon as possible. But first Isabel wants to introduce Pansy, who

Meanwhile, Rosier has been talking with Pansy. She tells him that her father has forbidden her to marry Rosier or even to talk with him. But Pansy insists that she will not marry anyone else and will remain always in love with Edward. She says that she will ask Isabel to help them.

Analysis

There is a sudden advance in time with Chapter 36. Approximately four years have elapsed. The reader is informed indirectly that Isabel and her husband do not get along. Madame Merle speaks of them as always being in opposition to each other. Isabel says several times that her husband does nothing to accommodate her. She speaks of herself as powerless to oppose the wishes of Osmond and hints that he is quite unreasonable.

Rosier is introduced here so as to complicate the plot issues. Isabel's fate or purpose in life will now revolve in a large measure around the destiny of young Pansy Osmond, for whom she has a great affection. Thus, Pansy's love and desires will become uppermost in Isabel's actions.

Beginning with these sections, we see more directly into the selfish and corrupt motivations of Osmond. He states quite frankly that Pansy's feelings do not matter as long as she obeys him. He says that he educated her to obey him and that she is always to do what he decrees. Osmond is so self-centered that he ignores anyone's feelings except his own. He would destroy or sacrifice anything or anyone in order to fulfill his own wishes.

Lord Warburton returns with Ralph so as to further complicate issues. He is the great lord of wealth and prestige whom Osmond would like to have as Pansy's husband.

The reader should note here how even Rosier appeals to Madame Merle for help in his suit for Pansy. It seems that this grand lady still wields some influence — at least enough for a person like Rosier to think that she can still help him.

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