The Portrait of a Lady

by

Henry James

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The Portrait of a Lady: Chapter 10 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Henrietta Stackpole, Isabel’s friend and an American journalist, has arrived in England to write on the European lifestyle. She writes to Isabel to ask if she can visit Gardencourt, seemingly wanting an introduction to upper-class society. Isabel extends an invitation, but notes that the Touchetts do not live the extraordinary European lifestyle that American readers wish to learn about. When Ralph asks Isabel what the journalist will think of him, she replies that Henrietta does not care at all what men think of her.
Henrietta’s newspaper assignment demonstrates America’s general interest in European cultures during James’s lifetime. Specifically, the American public is fascinated by England’s class system and wishes to learn about English aristocracy. It is likely that American individuals with new money were keen to emulate the luxuries of the European elite.
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
The European Old World vs. the American New World Theme Icon
The Dangers of Wealth Theme Icon
Henrietta makes her way to Gardencourt to see Isabel. Ralph and Henrietta develop a combative friendship; when the journalist first arrives, she brazenly asks if she should consider the Touchetts as Americans or English, and Ralph replies that he will please her by being an Englishman or even a Turk if necessary.
The straight-shooting Henrietta is frustrated by the playful Ralph, who evades the tactless questions that she asks about the Touchett family.
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
The European Old World vs. the American New World Theme Icon
Henrietta writes about the Touchetts for her newspaper column, but when she shows her work to Isabel, her friend advises that the material is too private, and that Henrietta cannot publish it. Henrietta asks who she can write about for her newspaper column, with Isabel advising that Lord Warburton will likely be visiting Gardencourt in the near future.
In her time at Gardencourt Isabel has learned about English social convention and recognizes that the Touchett family would take great offense at Henrietta’s proposed stories on Gardencourt.
Themes
The European Old World vs. the American New World Theme Icon
Henrietta challenges Ralph about his idle life at Gardencourt, believing that he should be investing himself in a career. She furthermore asserts that he has abandoned his American identity, to which Ralph responds that one can no more “give up” one’s country than they can their grandmother. When Henrietta then questions whether he has a heart, Ralph cryptically replies that “I had one a few days ago, but I’ve lost it since.” Henrietta is frustrated by his lack of serious response, furthermore attesting that he thinks himself too good to get married despite it being his duty to do so. Ralph is unimpressed by what he believes is her attempt to suggest that she would make him a good wife.
James paints Ralph as a European Old World gentleman who is gallant and sophisticated despite his inaction and illness. Henrietta, meanwhile, is the epitome of the self-made American New World individual who is bold and single-minded in her pursuit of financial success. They each make hasty (and inaccurate) judgments about the other.
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
The European Old World vs. the American New World Theme Icon
The Dangers of Wealth Theme Icon
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Isabel tells Ralph that Henrietta believes that the English treat women poorly. Isabel also attributes many of Henrietta’s forceful opinions to her strong sense of duty. Ralph suggests he should treat the journalist with less familiarity than the slightly hostile banter they have fallen into. He agrees with his cousin’s belief that Henrietta is a fresh and exciting individual, stating that “Henrietta, however, does smell of the Future—it almost knocks one down!”
Isabel demonstrates personal development as she tries to explain Henrietta’s character to Ralph, mirroring Ralph’s previous explanations of Lord Warburton’s character to Isabel. Ralph’s description of Henrietta as a forceful indication of the “Future” honors the incoming American New World values of ingenuity and courage that are beginning to make headway in Europe.
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
The European Old World vs. the American New World Theme Icon
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