The Portrait of a Lady: Chapter 40 - Summary & Analysis

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      Isabel, as she herself grew older, became acquainted with the revulsions and disgusts of life. As time went on there was less and less? association with Madame Merle who managed to spend most of the time since Isabel’s marriage away from Rome. Isabel’s old habit of living by enthusiasm and new adventure was not possible anymore and she wished she had some of Madame Merle's “polished weapons” to cope with “nature, providence, fortune (or) the eternal mystery of things” or whatever it was that had caused her to make such a bad marriage.

      Isabel often went out with Pansy. One day she returned to find Osmond and Madame Merle, who were unaware of her return, in the drawing-room talking to each other. They were old friends and there was nothing extraordinary about the meeting. Yet, Isabel “received an a flicker of light.” Soon Madame Merle saw her and welcomed her. Osmond left the room without a word. Madame Merle engaged herself with Isabel and wished Isabel to ‘influence’ Lord Warburton.

Critical Analysis

      We find Isabel taking stock of her recent past and realizing that Madame Merle has drifted away from her, as have her other friends. The technique here is that of a pure interior monologue and we share her most private trepidations and evaluations about her experiences so far.

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