The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James

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Chapters 41-45 Summary and Analysis

Summary
Isabel believes that Warburton would be a good match for Pansy, and she thinks the marriage would make Osmond happy. Although she is unhappy being married to Osmond, Isabel would like to satisfy herself that she had done all she could to please her husband. When Isabel discusses the matter with Osmond, he agrees that Warburton is the right choice for Pansy. He is annoyed at Isabel, though; it appears to him that she herself still has an interest in Warburton. In any case, Osmond hopes Isabel will use her influence to encourage Warburton to propose to Pansy.

Sitting alone, after her conversation with Osmond, Isabel wonders if Lord Warburton still loves her, and she reflects on how badly her marriage has turned out. Isabel now believes that she and Osmond truly dislike each other. Isabel despises Osmond’s pretensions and his desire to live as a fashionable member of society. Osmond, we learn, is angry at Isabel because of her independent mind, her many infuriating “ideas,” and her devotion to her cousin Ralph. Isabel understands this and has even tried to change to please her husband, but she will never acquiesce to all of his demands. Resigned to her fate, Isabel has concluded that she will always be unhappy; she has thrown her life away by marrying Gilbert Osmond.

A few days later, Isabel and Pansy attend a grand party together. Osmond stays home, as he usually does, because he doesn’t care for parties or dancing. At the party, the two women encounter a lovesick Ned Rosier, who is hoping to dance with Pansy. Pansy, however, has been forbidden by Osmond to dance with Ned, and she spends her time dancing with several other eager young men. As Ned and Isabel watch Pansy dance, Ned again appeals to Isabel to help him. Although Isabel has taken pity on him, she tells Ned there is nothing she can do.

When Lord Warburton arrives at the party, he chooses to sit and chat with Isabel rather than dance with Pansy. Isabel asks him if he really wants to marry her stepdaughter and Warburton assures her that he does, and to prove it, he says he is in the process of writing a letter to Osmond declaring his intentions. On their way outside, Isabel and Warburton bump into Ned, who is glumly watching Pansy dance. Warburton tells Isabel he feels sorry for the young man and asks how he could help him. Isabel wonders how Warburton could feel that way, considering that Ned is a rival. Warburton, however, doesn’t consider him to be much of a threat. Isabel hints that Ned is in love with Pansy, but Warburton does not seem overly concerned. Privately, Isabel tells Ned she will see what she can do to help him with Pansy. Then, as Lord Warburton departs, Isabel reminds the Englishman, somewhat playfully, to send his letter about Pansy to Osmond.

On her way to Rome to visit Isabel, Henrietta stops in Florence and calls on Countess Gemini. The Countess tells Henrietta that Lord Warburton has been spending time with Isabel. She believes that Warburton has renewed...

(The entire section is 1,346 words.)