The Portrait of a Lady

by

Henry James

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The Portrait of a Lady: Chapter 41 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
In truth, Isabel has to work hard to reconcile the thought of Pansy and Lord Warburton getting married. But she decides that she would be acting as a good parental figure if she promotes this more advantageous match, and therefore seems to experience a change in heart regarding the love match between Pansy and Edward Rosier, instead preferring Pansy to marry Lord Warburton as Madame Merle has suggested.
Isabel remains torn about what role she should take as Pansy’s stepmother, ultimately deciding that she should look out for Pansy’s financial wellbeing more than her happiness.
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
The Dangers of Wealth Theme Icon
Isabel ignores her disbelief that Lord Warburton is truly interested in Pansy when the girl is such a different character from his previous love, Isabel herself. Isabel also hopes that Pansy’s feelings for Rosier lack depth and that she can be persuaded to move on easily enough, although she knows deep down that this is likely not the case.
Isabel shows that naivety is still a key character trait; she ignores the warning signs that Lord Warburton is interested in Pansy merely to be closer to Isabel.
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
The Dangers of Wealth Theme Icon
Lord Warburton visits the Osmonds’ house for one of Isabel’s Thursday night parties. Isabel finds herself with the opportunity to leave Warburton and Pansy talking together alone, but cannot convince herself to carry out the act. Warburton ends up leaving the event without having been able to speak with Pansy alone.
Isabel may not have followed through on her conviction to encourage Lord Warburton and Pansy’s relationship because she knows that Pansy is in love with Rosier. Or, just as likely, Isabel wants Lord Warburton’s attentions remain fixed on herself, not Pansy, even though Isabel would never act on such desires as a married woman.
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
Art and Morality Theme Icon
After the party, Isabel sits alone in front of the fireplace. Osmond interrupts her quiet reflections to discuss Pansy’s marriage options. Osmond is clear in his desire for Pansy to marry Lord Warburton, stating that she will always want to please her father and that she wants to be a great lady. He ignores Isabel’s warning that Pansy had a great depth of feeling for Rosier.
Osmond is controlling and possessive. He is confident in his own opinion, ignoring Isabel’s. Isabel was previously used to men such as Mr. Touchett, Ralph, Lord Warburton, and Caspar Goodwood paying high regard to her opinion and it must cause her much unhappiness for Osmond to treat her as a person of no importance.
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
Related Quotes
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Although Isabel expects a harsh rebuke from Osmond concerning her involvement (or lack of it) in shaping Pansy’s future marriage, Osmond merely requests that Isabel help facilitate the match between Pansy and Lord Warburton. Osmond believes that Isabel still has the power to persuade Warburton to do whatever she pleases, offending Isabel when he alludes to the nobleman’s previous passion for her.
It is unclear why Osmond asks rather than commands Isabel to keep encouraging Lord Warburton’s affections for Pansy. Perhaps he knows that Isabel is lately questioning her resolve to remain loyal to her husband’s desires.
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
Art and Morality Theme Icon