The Portrait of a Lady

by

Henry James

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The Portrait of a Lady: Chapter 9 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Lord Warburton’s two youngest sisters, the Misses Molyneux, visit Isabel at Gardencourt. They are very timid women in their friendliness, but they do manage to extend Isabel an invitation to have lunch at Lockleigh.
Young English women seem meek and obedient when compared to Isabel, a headstrong and forthright American woman.
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
The European Old World vs. the American New World Theme Icon
Isabel takes up their invitation and visits Lockleigh. She is bold in directly asking the Misses Molyneux if they consider their brother, Lord Warburton, to be a radical. The sisters agree that he is a radical, yet he is also very sensible in nature. They are confused by Isabel’s pressing questions about whether Warburton would undertake radical action if it meant giving up his lands and title.
Again, James highlights the stark contrasts in personality between English and American women. Despite Isabel’s prompting, the Misses Molyneux cannot even comprehend a world in which the English class system would disappear.
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
The European Old World vs. the American New World Theme Icon
The Dangers of Wealth Theme Icon
Later in the day, while Isabel and Lord Warburton walk together, he tells her that he hopes to see more of her in future, as she has charmed him. Isabel is concerned at hearing his interest, imagining that this is “the prelude to something grave.” She tells him she will no longer be visiting Lockleigh, although there is nothing to prevent his visiting Gardencourt.
Isabel has ignored all previous signs of Lord Warburton’s romantic interest and is therefore shocked when he admits his affections. She will not consider him as a suitor, verbally distancing herself from the nobleman. She even describes his romantic interest as a “grave” matter that implies a kind of death to her personal freedom were it allowed to continue.
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
Isabel has read that the English are “eccentric” and “romantic” individuals; she is concerned that she has offended Lord Warburton with her blunt rejection of his affection. However, after a slightly off-note moment in which the nobleman appears to be bitter at this turn of events, he transforms into being as gallant and good-natured as always.
Isabel’s rejection of Lord Warburton’s affection is unexpected by the nobleman, even coming off as rude. Despite a man of his position likely never encountering denials to their desires, Warburton demonstrates English Old World courtesy in his chivalrous response to Isabel’s unexpected actions.
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon
The European Old World vs. the American New World Theme Icon
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As Isabel leaves, Lord Warburton promises that he will visit her at Gardencourt next week. She replies coolly “just as you please,” the narrator noting that her response comes from a place of fear.
Isabel’s dismissal of romantic liaisons seems to come from a fear of intimacy as well as a desire to maintain her personal liberty. Warburton’s response to Isabel’s rejection mirrors that of Caspar Goodwood, another suitor who is determined to pursue Isabel despite her rejection. James depicts these men as determined individuals who do not wholly respect Isabel’s feelings.
Themes
Female Independence vs. Marriage Theme Icon