The Portrait of a Lady

by

Henry James

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The Portrait of a Lady: Chapter 43 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Three nights later, Isabel takes Pansy to a party. She has been holding Pansy’s flowers for some time while her stepdaughter dances, when Edward Rosier approaches her. Pansy has denied him a dance, and, realizing that Isabel is holding Pansy’ bouquet, he asks if he may hold the flowers or take one. However, Pansy is on her way back to Isabel’s side and Isabel tells Rosier to leave. Pansy counts her flowers when Isabel hands the bouquet back.
Pansy’s eye for her flowers shows her care for Rosier, despite having denied him a dance (likely because she knows that her father would disapprove of their dancing together).
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
Pansy returns to dancing and Lord Warburton comes to talk with Isabel. He asks after Pansy and then requests a dance with Isabel. She replies that she prefers he dance with Pansy, her concern growing that he still shows some interest in Isabel. Warburton states that he will talk with Isabel even though he’d prefer to dance with her.
Isabel’s theory that Lord Warburton shows interest in Pansy only to get closer to Isabel is born out in Warburton’s desire to dance with Isabel. If he truly cares for Pansy and is no longer in love with Isabel, Warburton’s sole focus should be on spending time with Pansy (as Rosier is).
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
Pansy returns to Isabel, and Lord Warburton engages the young woman in conversation. Isabel notices that he presents “a smile of chastened devotion” to her stepdaughter.
Isabel is confused by Lord Warburton’s sudden attentiveness to Pansy despite his previous concentrated attentions on Isabel.
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
Pansy returns to dancing, having promised Lord Warburton a dance later. Isabel reminds Lord Warburton that he had previously indicated he would like to marry Pansy. He has not been in communication with Gilbert Osmond as promised on this count. Warburton admits that he wrote a letter to Osmond this morning, but has not yet sent it.
Isabel acts on her vague promises to Osmond and Madame Merle to encourage Warburton to marry Pansy. In this regard she betrays her principles, as she is almost certain that Pansy does not care for Warburton romantically and that he is still in love with Isabel.
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
Art and Morality Theme Icon
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As Isabel and Lord Warburton walk together at the party, they pass a wholly dejected Edward Rosier who is watching Pansy from a doorway. Warburton comments on the other man’s miserable demeanor, with Isabel revealing that Rosier is deeply in love with Pansy. In fact, Isabel suggests that Pansy would marry Rosier if not for Osmond’s preference of Warburton as her suitor. Isabel is suspicious of her companion’s lack of jealousy toward Rosier as his rival; he seems to pity the man. When she calls out Warburton on his unconvincing feelings for Pansy, the nobleman claims that he has strong reasons to be in love with Isabel’s stepdaughter and wonders at her doubt.
Isabel seems to engage Lord Warburton in a game of wits to catch him out and thereby ascertain his false interest in Pansy once and for all. Warburton’s suggestion of the “strong reasons” behind his attraction to Pansy could very well allude to his desire to be closer to Isabel as Pansy’s stepmother. If true, Warburton has truly fallen in moral integrity compared to the man Isabel knew at Gardencourt. His desires would also contradict the English aristocracy’s strict codes of ethics and social conduct.
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
The European Old World vs. the American New World Theme Icon
Art and Morality Theme Icon
Isabel and Lord Warburton exchange a short but intense look, which contains many enigmatic feelings. Isabel is concerned by the kernel of desire for her own self that she sees in Warburton’s eyes. Isabel takes her leave from Lord Warburton after their strange moment of studying one another. She finds Rosier still staged miserably in the doorway. She gives him hope for a union with Pansy.
Isabel’s intense shared eye contact with Lord Warburton is reminiscent of the moment shared by Isabel and Osmond after Osmond first revealed his feelings for her. James is increasingly matching Lord Warburton with Osmond in desires and behavior.
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
The Dangers of Wealth Theme Icon
Half an hour later, Isabel is leaving the party with Pansy. Lord Warburton assists them both to their carriage, where Isabel reminds him to send his letter to Osmond.
Isabel once more tries to undertake what she believes is her parental duty to support Pansy by encouraging Lord Warburton to focus his attentions on the young woman.
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
Art and Morality Theme Icon