The Portrait of a Lady


Henry James

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The Portrait of a Lady: Chapter 46 Summary & Analysis

For the next four days, Lord Warburton does not visit the Osmond family home. Osmond notices his absence and asks Isabel about it. She reveals that Warburton promised to write to Osmond about his intentions regarding Pansy. Osmond still has not received any letters from the nobleman. He insults Isabel for the previous letters between Isabel and Lord Warburton during her time at Gardencourt. They argue, albeit politely, and Isabel informs her husband that he will have to write to Lord Warburton if he wants to, for she will not write for him. Osmond accuses Isabel of being disloyal to her husband.
Isabel and Osmond’s marriage further deteriorates, with Osmond growing suspicious of Isabel’s obedience to his wishes. Ironically, she has been very loyal to Osmond’s desires. A little of the “old” Isabel shows when she instructs Osmond that he will have to write to Lord Warburton himself. She is beginning to rebel against the social convention that a woman must obey her husband’s will.
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Suddenly, Lord Warburton enters the room. He informs the Osmonds that he is departing for England, although he is sorry to have to leave Ralph. Osmond leaves the room, while Pansy enters to bid the nobleman goodbye. Lord Warburton advises her to be happy, for she has “a guardian angel” looking out for her well-being. Warburton leaves the house in a gentlemanly manner, at which Pansy tells Isabel that she considers Isabel to be her “guardian angel.”
Lord Warburton’s appearance and announcement are very abrupt. Clearly, Warburton still loves Isabel as he thinks of her with the highest regard.
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When Osmond is alone with Isabel later that day, he accuses her again of being disloyal to him. Isabel is no longer hurt at his insults and bids him to lay out his complaint clearly to her. Osmond contends that she has intentionally foiled Pansy’s union with Lord Warburton. Although Isabel denies this and highlights the fact that Pansy never had any feelings for Warburton, Osmond is convinced at her betrayal. Isabel exclaims “Poor little Pansy!” before she walks away from Osmond.
Isabel has reached the point where she is no longer painfully upset at Osmond’s attacks on her character, because she no longer respects him. She pities Pansy for Osmond’s conviction that his daughter must marry Lord Warburton, and for Osmond’s cruel behavior in general.
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