The Portrait of a Lady

by

Henry James

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Portrait of a Lady can help.

The Portrait of a Lady: Chapter 47 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Three days pass. Henrietta Stackpole informs Isabel that Caspar Goodwood is currently in Rome. This brings up a lot of emotions for Isabel, who believes that Goodwood is the only person in the world that she has ever harmed unfairly. She realizes that she never treated Goodwood’s commitment to her with the fairness that he deserved. She is also hesitant to meet with Goodwood because she feels that she needs to sort out her own affairs before they meet.
Henrietta, the agent of action, has encouraged Caspar Goodwood to come to Rome and now informs Isabel of his presence. Isabel is greatly affected by this news because she has come to realize that she never treated Goodwood respectfully during his courtship.
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
Henrietta asks Isabel why she doesn’t leave Osmond due to their intensely unhappy marriage. Isabel says that she must live with her foolish decision to marry a cruel man who wanted her money more than her companionship; Henrietta cannot move her friend’s mind on the matter. However, Isabel realizes that the journalist is a true friend who has gone out of her way to check in on her due to genuine concern for Isabel.
Isabel finds it easier to admit her foolish decisions in marriage to Henrietta. She begins to realize how lucky she is to have friends like Ralph and Henrietta who, unlike her husband, genuinely care for her. Isabel reiterates her belief that she must abide by her decision to marry Osmond and honor the accompanying social responsibilities.
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
Art and Morality Theme Icon
The Dangers of Wealth Theme Icon
After first checking with Isabel, Caspar Goodwood visits the Osmond family home. Isabel hopes that he is long over his passion for her. As per social duty, Isabel introduces Goodwood to Osmond. The two men surprise Isabel by getting on well together. When Osmond learns that the American businessman once eagerly pursued Isabel’s hand in marriage, he is surprised that Isabel did not accept. Goodwood becomes a regular guest at Isabel’s Thursday night parties.
Osmond has now met both of Isabel’s previous suitors, Lord Warburton and Goodwood, and has not found issue with either man. In fact, as per the rest of Isabel’s peers, he is amazed that she did not agree to marry one of them because they are such fine characters with great wealth attached.
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
The Dangers of Wealth Theme Icon
Isabel asks Goodwood to visit Ralph at his hotel. The American businessman obliges her request, finding that Henrietta is also there when he calls on Ralph. She has been visiting Ralph each day and the two have built up a solid, if combative, friendship.
Isabel attends to Ralph, who remains too unwell to travel. Goodwood’s agreement to visit Ralph shows his continued commitment to pleasing Isabel; it is likely he still loves her. Meanwhile, Ralph and Henrietta—individuals with values and attitudes that are worlds apart—have surprisingly built a solid friendship.
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
The European Old World vs. the American New World Theme Icon
Get the entire The Portrait of a Lady LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Portrait of a Lady PDF
Isabel is pleased and rather proud that Goodwood now also regularly visits Ralph, believing she has been “clever” in making Goodwood an unassuming caretaker for Ralph who can likely accompany her cousin northward when Ralph is ready to travel. One of Isabel’s greatest fears is that Ralph will die in Rome, knowing that he should instead rest easy in the comforts of his beloved Gardencourt. Like Ralph, Isabel has come to realize that Gardencourt is a precious place to her.
 Despite her claims not to want to harm those around her, Isabel keeps Goodwood in Rome and influences him to take care of Ralph. She acts in good faith, trying to make the dying Ralph’s final days as comfortable and happy as possible. Isabel looks back on her time at Gardencourt with nostalgia.
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
During this time of Henrietta and Goodwood visiting Rome, Isabel is frequented by strange nighttime dreams of Osmond and Madame Merle together. She is not sure what her imagination is trying to communicate to her. Osmond and Madame Merle are certainly not physically in one another’s company, for Merle is not currently in Rome.
Isabel has a pattern by which she refuses to consider the horrible realities of the world around her. Her conscience seems to be trying to communicate the truth of Osmond and Madame Merle’s strange relationship to Isabel through dreams.
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon