The Portrait of a Lady Chapters 6-10 Summary and Analysis
by Henry James

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Chapters 6-10 Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
Henrietta Stackpole: Isabel’s opinionated friend from America

Miss Molyneux: Lord Warburton’s sister

Mildred Molyneux: Warburton’s youngest sister

Vicar of Lockleigh: Lord Warburton’s brother; a burly ex-wrestler who is now a clergyman

Isabel is described as a young woman with a “high spirit.” She is quite determined, has strong opinions, and thinks rather highly of herself. Isabel looks forward to learning as much as she can about the world and hopes she will have the opportunity to prove herself when she is confronted with difficult situations. She is also quick to engage in debate on any subject, with anyone who is willing to take her on. Consequently, most people who meet her find her interesting and appealing.

Isabel’s American friend, a journalist, Henrietta Stackpole, is also traveling in Europe. Like Isabel, she is an independent woman, and Isabel greatly admires her. Henrietta has heard that her friend is in England, but since Isabel is traveling with her aunt, it may not be possible for them to spend time together.

Isabel likes to observe herself and is always looking for ways to improve her knowledge and her understanding of her situation. She enjoys living at her uncle’s estate and wants to learn everything about England. She spends a considerable amount of time with Daniel Touchett, asking him questions about his adopted country. The old man assures her it is a fine country, filled with good people. Isabel worries, however, that she will be too unconventional for English society, but her uncle assures her that she will be a great success. Isabel quickly forms a close friendship with her uncle.

Because Mrs. Touchett finds England disagreeable, Isabel often argues with her about the country and English customs. She also disagrees with Ralph’s opinion of America. Ralph likes to tease Isabel about her patriotism; he has a cynical view of both England and the United States. Ralph, who is often in a melancholy mood, fears his father will die soon and leave him all alone. Ralph would prefer to die first than to be left without his father, whom he greatly admires.

One of the few things that elevates Ralph’s mood is the time he spends with Isabel. She is fascinating and attractive, although Ralph dismisses the notion, to himself, that he has fallen in love with her. Ralph understands that his cousin is very independent and is not waiting around for a man to come along and make a life for her. He knows Isabel has her own plans and purpose.

In addition to spending time with her cousin, Isabel also enjoys the company of Lord Warburton. She is curious about English society and wants to meet more people. When Lord Warburton visits again, he stays for a few days, spending a lot of time with Isabel. One night, Mrs. Touchett, Isabel, Ralph, and Warburton stay up, talking in front of the fire. Although Isabel is enjoying herself, when Mrs. Touchett rises to go to her room, she insists that Isabel retire also. She tells her niece that in England it is not proper for a young woman to stay up talking to young men by herself. Ralph and Warburton are annoyed by this, and Isabel is mystified. Isabel thanks her aunt for the advice, however; she wants to learn all she can about English rules and customs, then she will be able to choose for herself which rules she intends to follow.

During the next few days, Isabel spends her time with Warburton, discussing England and America. Warburton has traveled throughout the United States, but he finds that country confusing. He describes his family to Isabel: he has four sisters and two brothers. Both his parents are deceased. One brother he describes as being “wild and pig-headed.” An army officer in India, this brother lives a luxurious life, spending great amounts of Warburton’s money. Warburton resents the situation and is considering cutting him off.

Later, Ralph tells Isabel that Warburton is “in a muddle” about his life. He is confused and unable to...

(The entire section is 1,758 words.)