The Portrait of a Lady

by

Henry James

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The Portrait of a Lady: Chapter 38 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Edward Rosier visits Madame Merle the next day and is surprised that she forgives him so easily for breaking his promise to her. She advises Rosier that he must be patient and his chance could arise to marry Pansy. She also suggests that the young man refrains from visiting her house regularly.
Again, Rosier’s point of view is offered rather than Isabel’s own. It is unclear why Madame Merle encourages Rosier’s pursuit of Pansy when she disapproves of Rosier as a suitor due to his lack of wealth. Merle is also conscious of her image and does not want her peers to suggest that there is a scandalous relationship occurring between Merle and Rosier, thereby warning him to stop visiting her so regularly.
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
The Dangers of Wealth Theme Icon
After skipping one of Isabel’s Thursday evening events, Rosier attends the next one. He talks with Osmond again, who advises that his daughter, Pansy, does not love or even care for Rosier in the slightest.
Osmond continues to treat Pansy as a voiceless possession, speaking on her behalf and misrepresenting his desires as her will.
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
Art and Morality Theme Icon
Rosier seeks out Isabel once more to discuss his predicament. She secretively assures him that Pansy still returns his romantic feelings. During their conversation, Lord Warburton arrives to speak to Isabel. The nobleman tells her that Ralph has accompanied him to Rome, but is too tired to leave their hotel rooms. In fact, Ralph’s health has declined again. Isabel vows to see Ralph the next morning.
Isabel’s secretive behavior implies that she does not want her husband to know she is encouraging Rosier and Pansy’s relationship. Notably, this is the first time readers see Lord Warburton since Isabel became engaged to Osmond.
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
The Dangers of Wealth Theme Icon
Having not seen Lord Warburton since she has been married—in fact it has been four years since their last encounter—Isabel is impressed that he seems to bear no ill will against her. Warburton enquires after her happiness, with Isabel not giving an honest answer. He says that he may himself still marry at some point in his life. Warburton then points out the “charming face” of a young lady nearby. Isabel tells him that it is her stepdaughter, Pansy, and that she will introduce them.
Isabel, who always used to speak her mind, finds herself lying about her happiness in marriage. This may be to save face despite the obvious reality that she has made a poor choice in husband, or because she does not want to invite her previous suitor, Lord Warburton, to take too much of an interest in her wellbeing.
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
The Dangers of Wealth Theme Icon
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Meanwhile, Edward Rosier asks Pansy if her feelings toward him have changed. She answers truthfully that they have not, but Osmond has forbidden her from speaking to Rosier. She plans to ask the fearless Isabel to help her change her father’s mind and asks Rosier to be patient. Isabel interrupts the conversation, bringing over Lord Warburton to introduce him to Pansy.
This is the first time in the novel that Pansy shows any real individuality and spirit, proving she no is no longer obedient to her father’s every wish as when she was a girl.
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon