The Portrait of a Lady: Chapter 18 - Summary & Analysis

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Chapter XVIII


      On reaching Gardencourt, Isabel retired to her room noting that Mrs. Touchett had been constantly with Mr. Touchett. Isabel meets Madame Merle, a friend of Mrs. Touchett and is immediately attracted to her.

      Mr. Touchett is now dying. During one of his better periods he tries to give Ralph some advice. He urges Ralph to marry his cousin. Ralph, however, wants to help Isabel. He says : “If she has an easy income, she will never have to marry for support... She wishes to be free and your bequest will make her free”. Mr. Touchett tells him that he had already left a legacy for her. Mr. Touchett thinks Ralph’s generosity for Isabel to be immoral.

Critical Analysis

      Isabel is simply overwhelmed by Madame Merle and unconsciously the ‘trap’ has started. Isabel’s desire to love everything European has now assumed a serious nature and thus she easily falls a prey to Madame Merle’s charms.

      Ralph remains “the apostle of freedom.” His tendency to experiment with human material and his subsequent monetary help to Isabel, make him instrumental-though unwittingly—in Isabel’s tragedy.

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