The Portrait of a Lady: Chapter 38 - Summary & Analysis

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      Mr. Rosier goes to see Madame Merle on the morrow who advises her to be more patient, and to present himself at the Osmond’s house only on Thursday evenings “when the world would be there”. Accordingly Rosier visits the Osmonds on a Thursday only to have a talk with Osmond. While they are talking Lord Warburton enters and interrupts the heated conversation. Rosier now drifts away, and on meeting Isabel, tells her, “your husband is awfully cold-blooded”.

      After Osmond has left them, Isabel and Lord Warburton have a pleasant time reminiscing about mutual acquaintances and recent events.

      Lord Warburton informs Isabel that Ralph has come to Rome with him. Isabel wants to see Ralph immediately—he is very ill— but Warburton tells her that the next morning would be a good time. When Lord Warburton commends her for her house, Isabel says the credit should go to Osmond who has “a genius for upholstery.”

      In the meanwhile, Pansy and Rosier talk about their love and we learn that Osmond has asked Pansy to ignore Rosier. She too counsels patience insisting that Mrs. Osmond may help them. Pansy then leaves him to pay her respects to Isabel’s old friend.

Critical Analysis

      James gives here a powerful commentary on Isabel’s relations to her husband as he describes the Osmond home.

      Rosier and Pansy remind us of Miranda and Ferdinand in Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Also noticeable is the fact that the change of fortunes of Isabel is parallel to the growth of Ralph’s illness and Lord Warburton’s political growth in the book.

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