The Portrait of a Lady

by

Henry James

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The Portrait of a Lady: Chapter 32 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
While waiting in the house for the visitor, Isabel reflects on how much she has changed from the “frivolous young woman she was in Albany and Gardencourt.” Her visitor then arrives: it is Caspar Goodwood. He is upset and talks with forceful determination, explaining that he came to her as quickly as possible after receiving her letter informing her that she has accepted a marriage proposal from Gilbert Osmond. Isabel tells him that she wishes he hadn’t come at all.
The news that Isabel is to be married to Gilbert Osmond is as much of a surprise to readers as it is to Goodwood. The story has skipped the scenes detailing Isabel and Osmond’s continued courtship and agreement to marriage, leaving readers with the aftermath of Isabel’s foolish choice. Isabel may consider herself greatly developed compared to her time at Gardencourt, but this is another example of her imagination leading her into danger; namely, the risk of Osmond marrying Isabel for her money.
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
The Dangers of Wealth Theme Icon
Related Quotes
The two have a heated discussion, both angry at one another—Goodwood upset at her betrayal, Isabel frustrated at his assumed possession of her and his response to her news.
Goodwood and Isabel’s interactions are always heated, perhaps another sign that Isabel finds herself greatly attracted to him.
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
Isabel then changes tack and asks Goodwood if he has recently been in contact with Henrietta Stackpole. He states he has, although he has not passed on the news of Isabel’s engagement to her. Isabel admits that Henrietta dislikes Osmond. She admits to marrying a “nobody,” but declares that she is not marrying for the favor of her friends.
Isabel is wary of her friends’ responses to news of her engagement, as she recognizes that it is a seemingly disadvantageous match for her to marry the inauspicious Osmond. However, Isabel states she is content in the knowledge that she is marrying for herself and no one else.
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
The Dangers of Wealth Theme Icon
Goodwood asks Isabel for some details about Osmond and their upcoming wedding. Isabel is almost aggrieved by the control he now demonstrates over his intense feelings, perhaps expecting him to show more passion for her. However, she is also upset at the pain she can see him trying to hide.
Isabel again demonstrates her fickle character—she does not want Goodwood to romantically care for her, yet she desires his passionate attentions. She is also upset at causing him pain, having previously stated that one of her greatest fears is hurting others.
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
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Goodwood states that he came to Florence to demand Isabel’s rationale for getting married, when she had once promised him that she likely never would. He admits he would prefer her to marry no one if she will not marry him. Goodwood takes his leave without bidding Isabel goodbye, intending to depart from Florence the next day. Although Isabel responds that she is “delighted” to hear that Goodwood is leaving, she breaks down in tears shortly after he leaves.
As per his American New World candor, Goodwood is shockingly honest in his preference for Isabel to refrain from marrying at all if she will not marry him. Isabel’s “delighted” response at his departure from Florence is revealed as false bravado. In an echo of their previous encounter in London, she breaks down in emotional turmoil after Goodwood leaves her. This time, Goodwood chooses to leave Isabel rather than Isabel turning him away.
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
The European Old World vs. the American New World Theme Icon