The Portrait of a Lady


Henry James

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Portrait of a Lady can help.

The Portrait of a Lady: Chapter 30 Summary & Analysis

Returning to Florence with Ralph, Isabel tells Madame Merle of her intention to visit Pansy as per Osmond’s request. Merle warns that she should not visit a bachelor’s house alone, even if he is away, as such behavior is inappropriate. But Merle then advises Isabel to do so anyway.
Isabel again misses the warning sign that Madame Merle does not have her best interests at heart, for the older woman advises Isabel to act against social propriety.
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
The Dangers of Wealth Theme Icon
When visiting Pansy at Osmond’s Florence villa, Isabel admires the innocent beauty of her young friend. She is tempted to talk to the girl about Osmond. However, she decides this would not be ethical behavior in taking advantage of a young girl’s innocence.
Isabel keeps her promise to Osmond and visits Pansy; she has taken an enormous liking to the girl. Her consideration of Pansy’s involvement in her relationship with Osmond is characteristic of the kindness that Isabel will show Pansy as her future stepmother.
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
Pansy shares a personal concern with Isabel, thinking that Osmond has brought her home from the convent to save money for the young girl’s dowry—this is what happened to another friend of Pansy’s at the convent. As Isabel leaves Osmond’s Florence villa, Pansy wants to know when she will return for her next visit. Isabel thinks it will not be “for a long time.”
Pansy reveals her affection for Isabel by opening up about a personal fear. Until this moment Pansy has been a one-dimensional character who only responds to the desires of those around her. Pansy’s motherless vulnerability perhaps encourages Isabel to consider Gilbert Osmond as a potential husband.
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon