The Portrait of a Lady: Chapter 11 - Summary & Analysis

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Chapter XI


      Henrietta feels Mrs. Touchett quite disagreeable to her. The comedy of the “international situation” is maintained in an argument between Mrs. Touchett and Henrietta regarding the merits and demerits of American hotels. Mrs. Touchett dislikes Henrietta at once because of what she detects as the liberties and manner of a boarding house. Mrs. Touchett and Henrietta have a rather pointed argument about the relations between wealthy people and their servants. In this argument she emerges as the typical democrat.

      Later, Henrietta delivers the message which she originally announced was the intention of her visit. On the boat with her was Isabel’s former suitor i.e. (Gaspar Goodwood). Henrietta insists that she should be ready herself for a visit from him. The next day a letter from Mr. Goodwood arrives, announcing that he is in London and would like to see her. Isabel, seated on a garden bench, reads the letter with such deep attention that she does not perceive the arrival of a visitor. When she finishes the letter and looks up, she sees Lord Warburton before her.

Critical Analysis

      The theme of marriage and choice is vigorously reintroduced by Henrietta in this chapter, who considers Goodwood to be a representative of all the honest American virtues; it is an indication of Isabel’s development when Henrietta accuses her of changing during her stay at Gardencourt.

      This chapter is more concerned with plot than any previous chapter. We learn not only of Goodwood’s arrival but of his earlier pursuit of Isabel, who rejected him. Goodwood vows that his love for her will never receive the touch of mortality and will transcend all the problems of space and time. In connection with Goodwood’s name, one should always speculate on the significance of a character’s name in a Jamesian novel.

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