The Portrait of a Lady

by

Henry James

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The Portrait of a Lady: Chapter 13 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
It is Isabel’s concern at her own personal fears and not her desire for advice that leads her to discuss Lord Warburton’s marriage proposal with her uncle. Upon hearing of these recent events, Mr. Touchett confirms that he knew Isabel would be a success in Europe. Furthermore, Lord Warburton had communicated his intentions to Mr. Touchett three days ago by letter.
Lord Warburton stands by chivalrous values and has informed Mr. Touchett of his romantic intentions regarding Isabel as per the English tradition of asking a woman’s closest male relative for his blessing. Touchett’s previous prophecy regarding Isabel’s social success in Europe is already being fulfilled.
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
The European Old World vs. the American New World Theme Icon
Isabel describes her feelings to Mr. Touchett, including her desire to refrain from marriage at this point in her life. She feels better after explaining herself, justifying her dismissal of Lord Warburton’s proposal as reasonable. Mr. Touchett hopes his niece will not have to sacrifice too much in her pursuit of retaining her independence.
Mr. Touchett’s comments on sacrifice echo Ralph’s earlier statements to Isabel about his hope that she will never have to sacrifice her dreams and hopes—namely, to maintain her much-loved independence.
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
Isabel’s thoughts change direction, considering Caspar Goodwood’s romantic intentions. She is no more inclined to marry Goodwood than she is to accept Lord Warburton as a husband, and she decides that she will refuse to let the dynamic American businessman take “positive possession” of her. As with the authoritative Warburton, she is concerned that marriage to the assertive Goodwood would “deprive her of the sense of freedom.” She also acknowledges that Goodwood emits even more of an alluring energy than Warburton. However, Isabel feels empowered by her rejection of Lord Warburton’s handsome offer of marriage and commits to rejecting Goodwood also.
Despite Lord Warburton’s earlier claim, Isabel is no more inclined to marry a prosperous American than she is a wealthy Englishman. She is triumphant in her refusal of a powerful man and vows to reject Goodwood’s likely marriage proposal too, even though she feels more strongly attracted to the intensely masculine Goodwood than she does to Warburton. James continues the theme of men objectifying Isabel through Goodwood’s desire to possess her as his wife.
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
The European Old World vs. the American New World Theme Icon
The Dangers of Wealth Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Caspar Goodwood is a wealthy Boston gentleman who is son of a Massachusetts cotton-mill industry magnate. He attended Harvard University, where he was at first well-known for his sports prowess before he developed a sharp intellect. Goodwood currently manages the cotton-mill works and has invented and patented a technology that improves the cotton spinning process, although Isabel is uninterested in this achievement. She is impressed by his charisma, dependability, and dynamic leadership style, but not enough to tie herself romantically to him. She also considers that he is a serious and unsophisticated character who is not blessed with good looks and fails to vary his modern daily outfits.
Caspar Goodwood’s background paints him as an entrepreneurial New World man. As with Lord Warburton, Isabel fails to realize the significant social and financial advantages that Goodwood offers her in marriage. Isabel’s repeated attentions to Goodwood’s unattractive looks demonstrate her vanity.
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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Despite Caspar Goodwood’s many attractive qualities, Isabel will not marry him. She notes that Lord Warburton is in many ways the opposite to the American businessman, for he is charming in an incredibly “delightful” rather than forceful manner. However, Isabel has resolved not to marry the nobleman either.  She writes him a letter in which she confirms she has considered his proposal, but cannot accept it. She decides not to write Goodwood a letter at all.
Isabel highlights Lord Warburton and Caspar Goodwood’s opposing personalities in their respective Old World chivalry and New World magnetism. Despite Isabel’s repeated assertions of Goodwood’s plain physical features and dress, he certainly comes off as the most alluring man that she meets throughout the novel.
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
The European Old World vs. the American New World Theme Icon
While Isabel is occupied with the letter to Lord Warburton, Henrietta Stackpole gets Ralph to walk in the garden with her. She charges him with inviting Goodwood to visit Gardencourt, suggesting that although Isabel has changed since arriving to England, Henrietta is quite certain that Caspar Goodwood is still the right man for her. Ralph is hesitant to get involved in the matter, particularly because he has never met Goodwood or heard Isabel speak of him. However, he agrees to extend an invitation after Henrietta accuses him of being in love with Isabel.
Henrietta is a force to be reckoned with, and Ralph is uncomfortable at her appeal for him to invite the mysterious Goodwood to Gardencourt; such an invitation contradicts English protocol of rational and tactful behavior. Ralph only agrees to her request in order to divert suspicion that he is romantically interested in Isabel.
Themes
The European Old World vs. the American New World Theme Icon
Two days after writing an invitation to Caspar Goodwood, Ralph receives a response in which Goodwood thanks him but regrettably replies he cannot make a visit Gardencourt. When Ralph shows the letter to Henrietta, she is confused by its contents and determines that she will write to Goodwood to discover what is going on. Goodwood does not respond to Henrietta’s letter, further puzzling her.
Henrietta shows no remorse or embarrassment over her social blunder in believing Goodwood would eagerly accept an invitation to Gardencourt. Her indiscreet manners are typical of American New World lack of refinement.
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
The European Old World vs. the American New World Theme Icon
Henrietta suggests that she and Isabel should travel to London together, with the journalist secretly wanting Isabel and Caspar Goodwood to connect there. Isabel is keen to experience more of England, agreeing to visit London, and Ralph decides that he will join the two women on their trip. Isabel has also received a letter from Lord Warburton stating that he will visit Gardencourt tomorrow, which she wants to honor before traveling to London.
Again, Henrietta is unrelenting and unashamed in her desire to connect Isabel with Goodwood. However, her forthright scheming never causes any injury to others more serious than awkwardness or embarrassment. Ironically, Henrietta lacks the ability to feel either of these qualities.
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
The European Old World vs. the American New World Theme Icon