The Portrait of a Lady By Henry James Summary and Analysis Chapters 8-9

Summary

Since Lord Warburton has invited Isabel to come to see his house, Isabel questions her uncle about him. From Ralph, she has heard that he is a man of very high social position and of great wealth. He is greatly admired and is somewhat of a radical. After she has found out a great deal about him, Isabel mentions that she would like to see him put to a test someday. Mr. Touchett tells her that Lord Warburton will never be a great martyr unless she makes him one. Isabel maintains that she will never make anyone be a martyr and hopes she will never have to be one herself.

At Lord Warburton's house, Isabel meets his two unmarried sisters, the Misses Molyneux. She discovers that they greatly admire their brother and could not conceive of ever disagreeing with him on any subject. Even though the two sisters are quite different from Isabel, they begin to feel a strong friendship for one another.

Lord Warburton takes Isabel for a walk and lets her know how charming he finds her. Isabel refuses to believe him and attempts to change the subject. Lord Warburton tells her that she strikes him as having great purposes and vast designs to execute. Isabel denies this and thinks that she only wants to see some more of the world and make a few independent judgments about it. Lord Warburton tells Isabel that he will come to see her again next week.

Analysis

Chapter 8 is devoted to developing the character of Lord Warburton, who comes to represent the ideal Englishman. He is a man of great wealth, position, and repute. He is also a man of perfect taste but rather liberal and sincere in his beliefs. The reader should also remember that later in the novel Gilbert Osmond thinks Lord Warburton would be an ideal husband for Pansy.

There is some of James' irony at the end of the chapter. Old Mr. Touchett thinks that Lord Warburton will never be a martyr unless Isabel makes him one. Isabel stoutly maintains that she will never make anyone a martyr; however, later Lord Warburton is in one sense a martyr to Isabel.

Chapter 9 continues to develop Lord Warburton's character. His two sisters are introduced so as to reflect on his good character and noble nature, revealing therefore what a perfect mate Isabel will soon refuse.

Lord Warburton's view of Isabel is also interesting. He thinks of her as having some "mysterious purposes-vast designs." He also sees her as a person who likes her independence. Therefore, in his marriage proposal, he will be offering her a chance to develop her independent nature and execute her mysterious purposes. He has no desire to change her nature in the way that Gilbert Osmond will try to change it.

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