Mrs. Touchett: Character Analysis - The Portrait of a Lady

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      Mrs. Touchett is Isabel’s aunt who brings her to Europe. She to is an expatriate American and finds English life extremely unadjustable. She spends most of her time in Florence. “Mrs - Touchett was certainly a person of many oddities, of which her behavior on returning to her husband’s house after many months was a noticeable specimen. She had her own way of doing all that she did, and this is the simplest description of a character which, although by no means without liberal motions, rarely succeeded in giving an impression of suavity. Mrs. Touchett might do a great deal of good, but she never pleased. She was a plain-faced woman without graces, and without any elegance, but with an extreme respect for her own motives. At fixed intervals she paid a visit to her own country (America), but this last had been longer than any of its predecessors”.

      Mrs. Touchett never likes to meet anybody, even her husband or son unless she feels that she is fit to receive them. She is a past master in the art of condensation as her telegrams reveal. Her first telegram in the novel reads thus : “Tired America, not weather awful, return England with niece first steamer decent cabin”.

      She has no aesthetic sense but morally, she is quite dogmatic : “She had a little moral account-book with columns unerringly ruled and a sharp steel-clasp which she kept with exemplary neatness”. Isabel’s engagement and her subsequent marriage does not please Mrs. Touchett in the least. Madame Merle was once a good friend of Mrs. Touchett but even their relations undergo a perceptive change. Isabel realizes too late what Mrs. Touchett tells her quite early that it was Madame Merle who had made her (Isabel’s) marriage.

      Mrs. Touchett’s son Ralph dies. She accepts his death with a quiet dignity. All her life had been like a coin whose edges had been too rubbed, too smoothed. It was, in a way, extremely dull and insipid too. Some defeat, some mistake would have energized it. Isabel could perceive, when she met Mrs. Touchett after Ralph’s death that Mrs. Touchett felt defeated, that she saw herself in the future as an old woman without memories. One really wonders, can life be so lifelessly dull and smooth?

      Though she does not play an important role in the novel her reactions and ideas are relevant in a study of the international theme. Later in the novel, she is summed up in one image : “Mrs. Touchett had a great merit : she was as honest as a pair of compasses. There was a comfort in her stiffness and firmness; you knew exactly where to find her and was never liable to face encounters and conclusions. On her own ground, she was perfectly present but was never ever inquisitive as regards the territory of her neighbor”.

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