The Portrait of a Lady

by

Henry James

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The Portrait of a Lady: Chapter 50 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Isabel visits the Coliseum with Pansy and the Countess Gemini. Isabel sees Edward Rosier watching them from afar, and when she finds herself alone, Rosier approaches her. He has sold the decorative ornaments from his art collection and is now 50,000 dollars richer. It was torment to part with his beloved ornaments, but he hopes that Gilbert Osmond will now consider him wealthy enough to court Pansy. Isabel advises that she hopes Osmond will accept Rosier’s intentions to court his daughter, but thinks her husband will view Rosier’s hasty sale of his ornaments as an unwise decision.
Rosier demonstrates his commitment to Pansy (as well as his general tendency to make hasty and foolish decisions) when he sells part of his beloved art collection. Judging by his previous descriptions of Pansy, he is making room in his collection for the “consummate piece.”
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
Art and Morality Theme Icon
The Dangers of Wealth Theme Icon
Pansy and the Countess Gemini rejoin Isabel. Rosier wants to talk to the Countess, so Isabel and Pansy return to their carriage. The Countess instructs that they leave without her, for she will catch a cab home.
Rosier is clearly still trying to form relationships with anyone he believes can sway Osmond to consider him a suitor for Pansy; first Rosier approached Madame Merle, then Isabel, and now the Countess Gemini.  The problem is that Osmond does not respect the advice of any of these women.
Themes
The Dangers of Wealth Theme Icon
One week later, Pansy tells Isabel that Osmond is sending her back to be educated at the convent again. Isabel is totally unaware of this development, but promises to visit Pansy.
Osmond’s decision to return Pansy to the convent’s confines signals his attempt to exercise control over Pansy and the volatile issue of her future marriage.
Themes
Art and Morality Theme Icon
The Dangers of Wealth Theme Icon
After Pansy leaves Rome, Isabel shares a meal with Osmond and the Countess Gemini. Isabel tells Osmond that she will miss his daughter greatly, but decides not to question his strange decision to send her away. Osmond states that the convent is an excellent educational institution and that “it corresponds to an essential need in the family.” Pansy is “dusty” from experiencing the world too much and that time at the convent will render her “fresh and fair” again. (The narrator advises that Osmond cannot reason his decision, but is simply trying to test some phrases to see if they fit.)
Osmond cannot persuasively argue his rationale for returning Pansy to the convent because it lacks reason; he has acted purely on a whim according to his own interests, rather than considering Pansy’s wellbeing. In another act of loyalty to Osmond, Isabel decides not to cause a scene and accepts Osmond’s decision despite its unfairness to Pansy.
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
Art and Morality Theme Icon
The Dangers of Wealth Theme Icon
Related Quotes
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The Countess Gemini asks Osmond why he won’t admit to the obvious truth, accusing her brother of sending Pansy away because of Edward Rosier’s desire to marry her. She believes that Osmond knows that she approves of Rosier and is a bad influence on Pansy. Osmond states that if this were the case, he considers it more convenient to simply banish the Countess herself from Rome.
The Countess Gemini does not share Isabel’s loyalty to Osmond, calling out his false explanation for sending Pansy away. Osmond is used to dealing with the Countess’s accusations and reacts with a subtle threat.
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
Art and Morality Theme Icon