The Portrait of a Lady: Chapter 17 - Summary & Analysis

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Chapter XVII


      She was trembling but soon she felt relief. She felt happy for having exercised her power in dispatching two ardent suitors. When Henrietta appears, Isabel reprimands her for promoting Goodwood’s case. Henrietta is surprised to know Isabel’s idea of happiness, “a swift carriage, of a dark night, rattling with four horses over roads one can't see.” When Isabel feels Henrietta, outwitting her, she accuses her of having fallen in love with Mr. Bantling.

      The news of Mr. Touchett’s sudden and serious illness is received; Ralph and Isabel left for Gardencourt.

Critical Analysis
      What Isabel has announced as freedom and independence has begun to suggest tone of domination and power. Henrietta dislikes Isabel’s lack of direction, she accuses her of “drifting to some great mistake”. If Henrietta’s prediction is true, this great mistake will be the choice of a wrong life partner. The words “trap” and ‘duplicity’ recur in this chapter. To some extent it is an adumbration of Madame Merle’s machinations later in the novel. We should also remember that the word “fate” is also being used in the last few chapters. This also anticipates Isabel’s fate in the novel.

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