The Portrait of a Lady: Chapter 22 - Summary & Analysis

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Chapter XXII


      The scene shifts to the Florentine villa of Gilbert Osmond, a man Madame Merle has already indicated she would like Isabel to meet. The villa wears a non-communicative character (proving Madame Merle’s theory, that our possessions express our character, correctly). Each and every detail of each and every part of the house is loaded with significance. As the action begins we
find Osmond welcoming his daughter, Pansy, who has just been returned by two nuns from her convent school in Rome.

      After the nuns departed, Osmond and Madame Merle indulged in a little pleasantry in the mock-heroic style. But soon Mme. Merle told him that she wanted him to meet her good friend from America. He was a bit skeptical but Madame Merle assured her that she (Isabel) was “beautiful, clever, rich, splendid, universally intelligent and unprecedentedly virtuous”. He agreed to it.

Critical Analysis

      This chapter throws light on the background and character of Osmond. It is a symbolic projection of his personality. Madame Merle’s “familiar” arrival suggests a sinister atmosphere. There is, however, something oblique and hidden between Madame Merle and Osmond, even in their ordinary conversations. We can compare Pansy with Pearl in Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter.

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