The Portrait of a Lady Characters
by Henry James

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List of Characters

Master List of Characters
Mr. Daniel Touchett—A wealthy American banker who now resides in England.

Ralph Touchett—Mr. Touchett’s ailing son.

Lord Warburton—A wealthy English aristocrat and close friend of Ralph Touchett.

Mrs. Lydia Touchett—Mr. Touchett’s wife and Ralph’s mother. She has arrived from America with her niece, Isabel Archer.

Isabel Archer—A young American woman who is visiting England for the first time. She is Mr. and Mrs.
Touchett’s niece, and Ralph’s cousin.

Lilian Ludlow—Isabel’s sister who lives with her husband and children in New York City.

Edmund Ludlow—A New York lawyer, married to Lilian.

Edith Archer—Isabel’s other sister. She lives in the American West with her engineer husband.

Caspar Goodwood—A young American businessman who is in love with Isabel.

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.

Bob Bantling—Ralph’s bachelor friend from London.

Madame Serena Merle—A friend of the Touchetts who meets Isabel at Gardencourt.

Edward (Ned) Rosier—A young American, living in Paris, who had been acquainted with Isabel’s family in the United States.

Mr. and Mrs. Luce—An American expatriate couple who are living in Paris.

Gilbert Osmond—An old friend of Madame Merle’s who is living with his daughter in Italy.

Pansy Osmond—Gilbert Osmond’s young daughter.

Sister Catherine—A nun from the convent in Switzerland where Pansy attends school.

Sister Justine—Another nun from the Swiss convent.

Countess Gemini—Gilbert Osmond’s sister.

Mr. Hilary—Daniel Touchett’s attorney.


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Isabel's evolution from a charming and innocent girl with bright aspirations to a woman whose maturity has been achieved at the cost of much unhappiness is traced visually in the three moments she is seen framed in a doorway and dressed in black. The first of these portraits constitutes her entrance into the story since it captures her just as she leaves the Touchett mansion and steps onto the sunlit lawn at Gardencourt. Here she represents the freshness and confidence of youth, the luminosity of freedom and hopefulness, and an idealism which discounts wealth and social position in favor of a constant expansion of the self. These qualities, rendered even more charming by her naiveté, make all the men present on this occasion fall in love with her and wish to help her fulfill her dreams. The second portrait captures her as she appears several years after her unfortunate marriage, when Ned Rosier sees her standing in a gilded doorway at Palazzo Roccanera and thinks she is "the picture of a gracious lady." Ned cannot see that this image conceals Isabel's true feelings — is the gilding that covers the darker reality of her relationship with Osmond and her entrapment in the limitations he imposes on her. The truth of her situation is instead immediately sensed by Ralph who realizes "She wore a mask [and] it completely covered her face . . . The free, keen girl had become quite another person; what he saw was the fine lady who . . . represented Gilbert Osmond."

At the end of the novel, Isabel stands once more in the ample doorway at Gardencourt, having refused Goodwood's suggestion that she flee with him and having decided to return to Rome. No longer the inexperienced girl of the opening nor the confused woman of a short time earlier, she now sees herself as an individual with the capacity for independent action but only partly able to control her destiny. Her more profound vision is reflected in her only apparently paradoxical mixture of tentativeness and determination. "Here . . . she paused. She looked all about her; she listened a little; then she put her hand on the latch. She had not known where to turn; but she knew now. There was a very straight path." Neither the reader nor Isabel herself knows exactly...

(The entire section is 1,648 words.)