The Portrait of a Lady: Chapter 54 - Summary & Analysis

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Chapter LIV


      Isabel arrives at Gardencourt after a break of 6 years. She is conscious of how familiar everything is and muses over the effect coming to Gardencourt has had on her life. Mrs. Touchett is quiet but much the same. She informs Isabel that Lord Warburton is engaged to be married. Isabel also informs Mrs. Touchett that Madame Merle is to return to America, and that Madame Merle has ‘made a convenience’ of her.

      Isabel visits Ralph’s bedroom, and sits beside him while he is unconscious. She returns to her room and keeps pacing up and down. She soon receives a letter from Countess Gemini, but none from Osmond.

      Three days later, she visits Ralph who is strong enough for a few words. Their recognition of impending death leads them to be very frank; they discuss the effect of his death on her (Ralph believes he ruined her), and the love he has for her. He hopes that she takes some consolation, if her marriage has been a mistake, from the fact that she knows she has been deeply loved—in fact, “adored”.

Critical Analysis

      In their climactic meeting Ralph and Isabel forgive each other and we see their mutual generosity and nobility. Ralph admits that although the money he gave her provided a certain freedom and supported her in her quest, it has in fact ruined her. Here there is also a legitimate comparison between Ralph's suffering and hers at this point; his has been physical, while hers has been psychological and spiritual. Nevertheless his suffering has been as intense as his, and both acknowledge the fact. Ralph’s death is the destiny that Isabel would love to choose, but she cannot die as Ralph can. Do not we here see that Ralph is Isabel’s other self?

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