Countess Gemini: Character Analysis - The Portrait of a Lady

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      Thematically indispensable, Countess Gemini is a vain, inoffensive and amusing character in the novel. She was thin and dark and not at all pretty, having features that suggested some tropical bird - a long beak-like nose, small, quickly moving eyes, and mouth and chin that receded extremely. Her expression, however, thanks to various intensities of emphasis and wonder, of horror and joy, was not inhuman and, as regards her appearance, it was plain she understood herself and made the most of her points. Her attire, voluminous and delicate, bristling with elegance, had the look of shimmering plumage, and her attitudes were as light and sudden as those of a creature who perched upon twigs. She had a great deal of manners. Isabel, who had never known anyone with so much manners immediately classed her as the most affected of women. She remembered that Ralph had not recommended her as an acquaintance, but she was ready to acknowledge that to a casual view the Countess Gemini revealed no depths.

      Countess Gemini is Osmond’s sister. She was married to an Italian nobleman. She had lost all her three children within a year of their birth. Mrs. Touchett did not like the Countess but Madame defended her saying that she was one of the cornerstones of society.

      Countess Gemini does not care for appearances like Madame Merle and Osmond but she cares for dresses and frills. She puts off her long-awaited visit to Rome only because her dresses are not ready.

      Isabel thought her to be nothing more than a garrulous, idiosyncratic lady who babbled on and on without any sense of propriety. “She was like a bright, rare shell, wish a polished surface and a remarkably kind lip, in which something would rattle the moment you shook it”. Isabel does not like her much but she likes Isabel. In actuality the countess is a lonely unhappy individual. Osmond tells us about her that “she’s rather unhappy and she’s not of a serious turn, she does not tend to show it tragically, she shows it comically instead. She has got a horrid husband, though I’m not sure she makes best of him”.

      When the news of Isabel’s engagement reaches her, she congratulates her but at the same time says “when first I got an idea that my brother has designs on you, I thought of writing to recommend you in the strongest terms, not to listen to him. Then I thought it would be disloyal, and I hate anything of that kind.” It is the Countess who reveals the secret of Pansy’s parentage and Osmond - Madame Merle relationship to Isabel. Here crops up a question How has the Countess found out these things? But it can be accounted for by the fact that James has used her as the deux ex-machina in the novel.

      Not only her coarse and narrow mind is glimpsed by us but we also know that she has loose morals. On one occasion she breaks out passionately : “She (Isabel) is very happy - she’s very fortunate. She has others besides. She is more fortunate than I. I’m as unhappy as she, - I ‘have a very bad husband he’s a great deal worse than Osmond. And I’ve not friends. I thought I had, but they are gone”. Obviously she is one of the minor characters in the novel.

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