The Portrait of a Lady: Chapter 31 - Summary & Analysis

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Chapter XXXI


      Isabel has returned to Florence after a year abroad. She has changed “had harvested wisdom” and seen ‘‘life”... She is waiting for the arrival of a visitor as she sits in a room, musing over the events of the past year.

     Isabel had spent five months in Paris and Switzerland with her sister Mrs. Ludlow and her children, and later, Mr. Ludlow joined them as well. After seeing them off for America, “the world lay before her—she could do whatever she chose”: While Isabel returned to Italy, Ralph was in Corfu, and Henrietta had returned to America. She then went to Rome with Madame Merle without paying, a visit to her aunt in Florence. From Rome, she went to the East for three months in Madame Merle’s company. Isabel detected that there were certain basic and profound differences between herself and Madame Merle. This recognition was suggestive of the gradual decline of their intimacy with Isabel.

      After their return to Rome, Osmond went to Rome and met Isabel a number of times. Isabel then wrote to her aunt, saying that she should like to go to Florence.

Critical Analysis

      This chapter covers the passage of one-year. Although the fact is not explicitly stated, it is clear from this, chapter that Isabel is restless and nervous, flitting from place to, place. What is important is the communication of a growing awareness on the part of Isabel, an awareness of the implications of her freedom and her growing suspicions about Madame Merle.

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