The Portrait of a Lady

by

Henry James

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The Portrait of a Lady: Chapter 37 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Rosier bumps into Osmond before he finds Pansy. Showing a lack of social wiles, Rosier asks Osmond if he would be willing to sell some of his collection when he learns that Osmond has lost interest in ornaments. However, Osmond tells Rosier that he is “not thinking of parting with anything at all.”
As per the previous chapter, this one prioritizes Rosier’s point of view. In a conversation rife with innuendo, Osmond tells Rosier he will not sell him any of his art collection while more importantly suggesting that he will not allow Rosier to pursue Pansy’s affections.
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
Art and Morality Theme Icon
The Dangers of Wealth Theme Icon
Rosier takes his leave of Osmond, coming across Isabel in the adjoining room. She is dressed in a beautiful black velvet dress and framed in a gilded and “deep” doorway, creating a splendid image. Rosier also notices that she has developed a patience and sophistication during her marriage.
The image of Isabel, dressed in black and framed like a portrait in a doorway, echoes Isabel’s first scene in the novel where she makes an impact framed in a Gardencourt doorway. The changes in situation are subtle; Isabel’s dress is now described as velvet, a luxurious material that signals her increased wealth. Here, also, the doorway is “gilded” which suggests a birdcage that has trapped Isabel, matching up with Ralph’s previous comparisons of Isabel to a trapped and fallen creature of flight in her relationship with Osmond.
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
Art and Morality Theme Icon
The Dangers of Wealth Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Isabel helps Rosier to unobtrusively meet with Pansy at the party. Pansy has developed into a pretty nineteen-year-old young lady. Rosier asks if Pansy can show him a particular room, where he tells her that he has come to the party with the specific goal of meeting with her. He also manages to get Pansy to admit that she likes Rosier too, although she is concerned that her father, Osmond, might know.
Isabel’s aiding Rosier to connect with Pansy suggests that she approves of the match between the two young adults. Unlike Madame Merle, it is clear that Isabel values marriage for love rather than social gain.
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
The Dangers of Wealth Theme Icon
Madame Merle arrives to the party and speaks with Osmond. He reveals he was intentionally rude to Rosier, because the young art collector is not the right match for Pansy. Merle suggests that they keep Rosier around in case he is useful, appeasing Osmond’s objections by revealing that Rosier promised Merle he would not yet reveal his feelings to Pansy.
Osmond feels similarly to Madame Merle in that Pansy should marry a man who holds significant social status and wealth. Clearly, Osmond and Merle are also still in collusion as they scheme for increased advantage for their secret family.
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
The Dangers of Wealth Theme Icon
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Pansy enters the room, trailed by Rosier. Madame Merle is immediately proved wrong—it is clear that Rosier has announced his feelings to Pansy. Osmond is angry and tells Merle scathingly that she should be “horsewhipped.”
Osmond’s treating Madame Merle as an animal to be punished indicates his view of women as objects to cater to men’s desires. This contradicts the growing movement in America toward female equality, as represented most strongly by the career-driven Henrietta Stackpole.
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
The European Old World vs. the American New World Theme Icon
Madame Merle approaches Rosier to communicate her disappointment that he has broken her promise. Rosier then speaks to Isabel, worried that he is not good enough—specifically, that he is not wealthy enough—to gain Pansy’s hand in marriage. Isabel confirms that Gilbert Osmond desires Pansy to marry a wealthy man, and that she wants to help Rosier and Pansy get engaged, but that she simply “can’t.”
Isabel likely feels that she “can’t” do more to help Rosier and Pansy marry one another because she is morally obliged to support her husband’s values; it is clear that Osmond does not approve of Rosier.
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
Art and Morality Theme Icon