The Portrait of a Lady: Chapter 23 - Summary & Analysis

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Chapter XXIII


      Isabel tries to immerse herself in sightseeing. She could feel her heartbeat in the presence of the masterpieces of art. Gilbert Osmond came to the Piazzo Crescentini to see Madame Merle, who presented him to the young lady. Isabel was instantly captivated by the personality of Mr. Osmond. He invited her to his Villa on the hilltop and took his leave.

      Isabel’s interest in him made her ask Ralph about Mr. Osmond. Ralph’s information was sparse but his tone was disturbing. Isabel’s questions were greeted with vague replies by Ralph. He finally admitted that Isabel could hardly be injured by the company of two such extraordinary people.

Critical Analysis

      The most intriguing quality of this chapter is Ralph’s description of Madame Merle. His attitude and his tone, as we read between the lines, uphold the possibility that Isabel is beginning to find herself in a more complicated relationship than she has henceforth experienced.

      The completeness, harped on, in connection with Osmond and Madame Merle makes this chapter abound in metaphors and symbols. The words like “impression” and “effect” also suggest paintings or portraits; Madame Merle and Osmond are “finished” portraits; Isabel is in the process of becoming one.

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