The Portrait of a Lady By Henry James Summary and Analysis Chapters 53-54

Summary

When Isabel arrives in London, Henrietta and Mr. Bantling are there to meet her. As soon as the two ladies are alone Henrietta asks if Osmond made a scene about Isabel's departure. Isabel replies that it wouldn't be called a scene. Henrietta objects to Isabel's promising Pansy to return and hopes that Isabel will reconsider and refuse to go back.

When Isabel arrives at Gardencourt, she finds out that there is no hope for Ralph. She also hears that Lord Warburton is to be married soon. Then Mrs. Touchett wants to ask Isabel only three questions. She wants to know if Isabel is sorry she didn't marry Lord Warburton. Isabel tells her no, but admits that her husband does not get along with her. Her aunt then inquires whether Isabel still likes Serena Merle. Isabel observes that she no longer does as she once did and — in reply to the third question — states that Madame Merle had made use of her.

When Isabel gets to see Ralph, she tries to thank him for all that he has done for her. Ralph, however, feels that he has ruined Isabel because of his generosity. Isabel then admits that Osmond married her for her money. She confesses how she has been punished for wanting to look at life independently. Ralph wants her to remain at Gardencourt, but Isabel will only stay so long as it seems right. She believes so strongly in doing what is right. Ralph reminds her that however much Osmond may hate her that she has also been loved and adored.

Analysis

Isabel returns at the end of the novel to the place (Gardencourt) that had been her starting point. Here she will gain the strength to do what she considers to be the right thing. Most important to her is to reveal everything as openly as she can to Ralph. She now knows fully how deeply he has loved her and how generous and forgiving he has been with his love. She then tells him about her suffering and the punishment she has received from life. She gains strength in knowing that Ralph sympathizes with her and does not rebuke her for anything. Thus in this final scene between Ralph and Isabel, each discovers that their lives have been enriched for having known each other.

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