Places Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Places)
*Rome. Capital of Italy and major center of Western art and culture that provides the novel’s primary setting. Isabel Archer’s initial response to Rome is similar to that expressed by James himself on his first visit there in 1869: “She went about in a repressed ecstasy of contemplation.” Isabel’s state of mind is suggested by her lodgings, the Hôtel de Paris on Via St. Sebastiano, a sunny Roman street lined with trees on one side and a hill covered in greenery on the other. The hotel, a short walk from the Pincian Gardens, is located near the Spanish Steps and the Piazzo de Spagna, a popular gathering place for English tourists during the nineteenth century and the neighborhood in which James himself often stayed. Isabel visits many of the famous Roman sites—the Forum, the Palazzo Doria Pamphili, the gallery of the Capitol with its Hall of the Dying Gladiator, and St. Peter’s Basilica—all suggestive of a historical tradition so deeply entrenched it can become an oppressive force.
After rejecting several offers of marriage because she fears they will interfere with her desire to experience life, Isabel ironically accepts Gilbert Osmond’s proposal. Her marriage transforms her from a passionate, independent woman to an objet d’art, another item in Osmond’s art collection. The change is symbolized by the change in her residence. The darkness of the Palazzo Roccanero is in sharp contrast to the airiness...
(The entire section is 554 words.)
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Chapters 1-5 Questions and Answers
1. What are Ralph and Warburton discussing in the garden?
2. How does Ralph’s appearance differ from Warburton’s?
3. How does Warburton describe Isabel after he meets her?
4. How did Isabel’s father “squander” his fortune?
5. Where does Mrs. Touchett live most of the time?
6. Why did Mrs. Touchett travel to America?
7. How does Edmund Ludlow describe Isabel?
8. What city is Caspar Goodwood from?
9. Where in the United States did Daniel Touchett live before he moved to England?
10. According to Mrs. Touchett, what are American girls “ridiculously mistaken” about?
(The entire section is 218 words.)
Chapters 6-10 Questions and Answers
1. How did Isabel distinguish herself when she was growing up?
2. What is Isabel’s “chief dread” concerning her personal development?
3. According to Ralph, what kind of “specimen” is Lord Warburton?
4. Is Lord Warburton as “easily charmed” as Isabel thinks?
5. According to Ralph, why is Lord Warburton in such a “muddle” about himself?
6. To what person does Daniel Touchett privately compare Isabel?
7. What is the title of Henrietta’s article about the Touchetts?
8. Why is Henrietta so determined to learn more about English society?
9. What does Ralph say when Henrietta confronts him about...
(The entire section is 249 words.)
Chapters 11-15 Questions and Answers
1. What is Mrs. Touchett’s opinion of American women?
2. When did Caspar last see Isabel?
3. Prior to proposing to her, how many hours has Lord Warburton spent with Isabel?
4. Why does Henrietta want Isabel to see Caspar Goodwood?
5. What is the “big bribe” Isabel refuses?
6. To what Shakespearean character does Ralph compare himself?
7. Besides Gardencourt, does Daniel Touchett, the wealthy American, own other property in Europe?
8. Do Isabel and Henrietta stay with Ralph while visiting London?
9. According to Warburton, who wears the “Silver Cross”?
10. Does Isabel admire her friend...
(The entire section is 237 words.)
Chapters 16-20 Questions and Answers
1. What does Caspar say he would like Isabel to teach him?
2. Why is Isabel afraid of Caspar “watching” her?
3. How does the independent, adventurous Isabel describe her “idea of happiness”?
4. To what professional “title” does Henrietta aspire?
5. Where was Madame Merle born?
6. Who is Mr. Hilary?
7. Before Ralph talks to him about his will, how much money does Daniel Touchett plan to leave Isabel?
8. What is Madame Merle’s “great talent”?
9. Does Mr. Luce like the new French government?
10. Where was Ned Rosier raised?
1. Caspar wishes Isabel...
(The entire section is 252 words.)
Chapters 21-25 Questions and Answers
1. Why do Isabel and Mrs. Touchett travel to San Remo?
2. What does Pansy think of Madame Merle?
3. What does Osmond say is his “best” fault?
4. Where does Mrs. Touchett live in Florence?
5. Where did Osmond live before he moved to Florence?
6. Does Ralph think Madame Merle is “worldly”?
7. What does Countess Gemini look like?
8. According to Osmond, what is a woman’s “natural mission”?
9. What is Osmond’s life “plan” that he decided on years ago?
10. What do Madame Merle and the Countess teach Pansy to do?
1. They go to San Remo to visit Ralph...
(The entire section is 267 words.)
Chapters 26-30 Questions and Answers
1. Why is Bob Bantling interested in Henrietta?
2. How does Mrs. Touchett feel about Isabel going to Rome without a chaperone?
3. What is Isabel doing when she encounters Lord Warburton in Rome?
4. What parts of the Middle East did Lord Warburton visit?
5. To what American building does Henrietta compare “Michael Angel’s dome” while touring St. Peter’s?
6. How does Isabel describe Lord Warburton’s “character” to Osmond?
7. What is the title of the sonnet Osmond writes and shows to Isabel?
8. Where does Isabel plan to travel in Italy with her aunt?
9. What are Pansy’s greatest talents and...
(The entire section is 272 words.)
Chapters 31-35 Questions and Answers
1. What countries does Isabel visit with Madame Merle?
2. How does Isabel describe Osmond to Caspar?
3. What countries do Isabel and Lily visit together?
4. How does Isabel feel after her confrontation with Caspar?
5. Why is Mrs. Touchett angry at Madame Merle?
6. Why is Ralph “shocked and humiliated” by Isabel’s engagement?
7. Why does Ralph think Isabel is in “trouble”?
8. How does Osmond feel about Isabel’s inheritance?
9. What does Pansy say when Osmond tells her about his engagement to Isabel?
10. Does Countess Gemini think Isabel will like her husband, the Count?
(The entire section is 315 words.)
Chapters 36-40 Questions and Answers
1. Where in Switzerland did Ned meet Pansy?
2. How much money does Ned say he is worth?
3. What is Osmond’s opinion of Ned? How does Osmond describe Pansy’s suitor?
4. How have the Osmonds established themselves in their wealthy social circle?
5. During their friendly political debates, what name does Ralph call Lord Warburton?
6. If Pansy is not allowed to marry Ned, what does she tell him she will do?
7. Where did the Osmonds move to after their marriage?
8. How has Osmond’s attitude toward Madame Merle changed?
9. Why does Isabel think Lord Warburton and Pansy would be a good match for each other?...
(The entire section is 264 words.)
Chapters 41-45 Questions and Answers
1. What does Pansy enjoy talking to Lord Warburton about?
2. According to Osmond, what does Pansy have to do to become Lady Warburton?
3. How does Isabel experience the suffering her marriage has brought her
4. What is Gilbert Osmond’s opinion of himself?
5. Does Isabel think that Osmond still loves her?
6. How does Osmond describe Isabel’s independent opinions?
7. According to Lord Warburton, why didn’t he send his letter to Osmond?
8. How old is Lord Warburton and how old is Pansy?
9. Does Countess Gemini remember who Henrietta is?
10. How does Pansy really feel about Ned Rosier?...
(The entire section is 260 words.)
Chapters 46-50 Questions and Answers
1. Why does Lord Warburton think Ralph should not travel to England with him?
2. How does Lord Warburton feel about Pansy when he decides to return to England?
3. According to Henrietta, what is Isabel too “proud” to do?
4. What is Osmond’s opinion of Ralph? Is he concerned about Ralph’s illness?
5. Henrietta reminds Osmond of what object?
6. How does Osmond get along with Caspar Goodwood?
7. When does Ralph decide to return to England?
8. If Isabel remains married to Osmond, what does Henrietta think will happen to her?
9. What kind of magazine articles does Henrietta send Caspar Goodwood?
(The entire section is 286 words.)
Chapters 51-55 Questions and Answers
1. Does Osmond consider himself to be an honorable man?
2. When did Osmond’s first wife die and why do most people believe she was Pansy’s mother?
3. When does Isabel finally decide to visit Ralph, against Osmond’s wishes?
4. How does Pansy behave in the convent?
5. Who meets Isabel at the train station in London?
6. Why is Isabel surprised to learn that Henrietta will be moving to London?
7. How is Isabel greeted when she arrives at Gardencourt?
8. What message does Mrs. Touchett send to Sir Matthew Hope, the celebrated physician?
9. How does Caspar describe Isabel and Osmond?
10. As Ralph...
(The entire section is 344 words.)
Ideas for Group Discussions
Bibliography (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Grover, Philip. Henry James and the French Novel: A Study in Inspiration. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1973. Analyzes all of James’s works up to and including The Portrait of a Lady. Tries to show the ways in which James was influenced by Honoré de Balzac, Gustave Flaubert, and the French l’art pour l’art movement. Compares the themes and subjects of French writers with those of James.
Kelley, Cornelia Pulsifer. The Early Development of Henry James. Rev. ed. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1965. Traces the development of the Jamesian novel from Roderick Hudson (1876) through The...
(The entire section is 275 words.)