Outline Story of the Novel - The Portrait of a Lady

Also Read

      The Portrait of a Lady is a psychological study of a young American girl who, in her spiritual odyssey in Europe moves from illusion to reality, from innocence to experience, from happiness to suffering, from adolescence to maturity. The novel, in essential, deals with the effects of all the events on the “expanding consciousness” of Isabel Archer.

      Isabel Archer leaves America and her aunt, Mrs. Touchett accompanies her to Europe. At Gardencourt, her uncle, Mr. Touchett, her cousin, Ralph Touchett and their neighbor, Lord Warburton are greatly impressed by her. As a climax to the growing intimacy between Isabel and Lord Warburton, comes Lord Warburton’s proposal. I sable refuses and this refusal strengthens the already deep-seated respect for her passion for freedom and independence which Ralph and Mr. Touchett have.

      The ex-suitor, Caspar Goodwood comes from America and is sponsored by Henrietta Stackpole, Isabel’s friend, to renew his proposal of marriage to Isabel but is again rejected. Mr. Touchett leaves Isabel a great fortune. After the funeral rites of Daniel Touchett are over, Isabel along with Mrs. Touchett goes to Florence. Madame Merle, whom Isabel has met at Gardencourt, is also there. She introduces Isabel to Gilbert Osmond who is all appearances and has no substance. But, Isabel is ensnared by his artistic tastes and urbanity. Without having the vaguest possible realization of the fact that Gilbert Osmond is after her money, Isabel marries him. In the meanwhile, Caspar Goodwood and Lord Warburton have not stopped their pursuit.

      Gilbert Osmond and Isabel settle down in Rome, where on every Thursday, they have a get-together. Ned Rosier, an expatriate American also comes and Isabel learns that he loves Pansy. On the other hand, Gilbert Osmond wants Warburton to marry Pansy. Both Osmond and Madame Merle want Isabel to use. her ‘influence’ on Lord Warburton so as to bring about the marriage of Pansy and Lord Warburton. The hidden facets of Madame Merle’s personality are now lifted up one by one to Isabel. She decides not to promote this marriage when she learirs of Pansy’s interest and love for Ned Rosier. Ralph also comes to Rome and this too, in turn, infuriates Osmond. As the tension is mounting, one evening Isabel happens to see Osmond and Madame Merle engaged in an intimate and informal talk. Soon she learns that Pansy is the illegitimate daughter of Madame Merle and Osmond ; and that Osmond had married her for her money. All this is disclosed to Isabel by Countess Gemini, Osmond’s sister; who has been staying with them.

      A telegram reaches Isabel that Ralph is dying and wants to see her. She defies Osmond and decides to go to Gardencourt. Before leaving for England, she goes to see Pansy in her convent and promises that she will not desert her. In the last sad moments between them, Isabel and Ralph reveal to each other the depth of their love and affection. Ralph dies leaving Isabel benumbed and purposeless. One day Caspar Goodwood visits Isabel. He wants Isabel to start all afresh since his love is as intense and true as it was and in extremity of his passion he kisses her. Isabel breaks away from him and runs into the house. Soon she leaves England and returns to the withering shadows of Rome.

      Caspar Goodwood visits Henrietta hoping to find Isabel with her but is informed that Isabel has returned to Rome. This news is a great shock to Caspar Goodwood and as the novel ends, Henrietta is seen asking Caspar Goodwood to “wait” hopefully perhaps. It is on this intriguing note that the novel ends.

Previous Post Next Post