The Portrait of a Lady

by

Henry James

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The Portrait of a Lady: Chapter 25 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Madame Merle and the Countess Gemini converse in the garden while Osmond and Isabel talk inside. The Countess has guessed at Merle’s designs for Osmond and Isabel to marry. She is not angry at Merle’s scheming manipulation, but disagrees with the union. Although Merle tries to refute any such plan, the Countess states that she will actively oppose Osmond’s pursuit of Isabel’s hand in marriage. She does not believe that Isabel deserves to wed her cruel and selfish brother. Merle warns that Isabel will not believe the Countess, growing to mistrust her instead of Osmond.
The Countess Gemini and Madame Merle are both strong-willed and clever women who do not back down in their pursuits. The Countess, however, shows a compassion for Isabel’s wellbeing that Merle totally lacks.
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
The Dangers of Wealth Theme Icon
Pansy is earnest in her desire to please her father, Osmond, by making tea for the group, which Madame Merle considers and agrees to. The Countess Gemini asks Pansy what she thinks of Isabel; Pansy replies that their visitor is “charming” and “polite” to everyone around her, including Pansy.
Pansy seems to be a young woman without opinions—she simply communicates whatever statement she knows her audience desires from her. In this manner, she fits her father’s preference for a docile daughter.
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
When Pansy leaves to offer Osmond and Isabel some tea, the Countess Gemini asks Madame Merle if she is planning on finding a husband for Pansy sometime soon, as she is almost sixteen years of age. Merle acknowledges that she will certainly be involved in helping to find Pansy a suitor. She suggests that the Countess’s large social network will also be valuable for the project.
Despite the secret of Pansy’s parentage, Madame Merle involves herself in Pansy’s life in whatever manner she can. Clearly Merle wants Pansy to marry for social gain rather than for love, a desire that will be thwarted by Pansy later in the novel.
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
The Dangers of Wealth Theme Icon
The Countess Gemini is more hotheaded than Madame Merle and is often frustrated by Merle’s scheming. Madame Merle reveals that Isabel has recently received an inheritance of 70,000 pounds; the Countess Gemini feels sorry that Merle wants to offer the enchanting Isabel up for a dismal marriage to her devious brother. She knows that Osmond is a difficult man to please, and she “trembles for [Isabel’s] happiness!”
Madame Merle and the Countess Gemini are shown to be tenuous allies despite their differences in character. Merle trusts her enough to reveal the truth of her plan to gain control of Isabel’s wealth through Osmond.
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
The Dangers of Wealth Theme Icon
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