The Portrait of a Lady: Chapter 6 - Summary & Analysis

Also Read

Chapter VI


      This analytical - psychological chapter adds some new touches to the ‘portrait’ of Isabel. She was a lady of many theories. She was held in high esteem by people around her and she takes her undefined superiority to people for granted. Her paternal aunt, Mrs. Verian had once spread the rumor that Isabel was writing a book, though she “had no talent for expression and her thoughts were a tangle of vague outlines”.

      Specific details escaped her and she always sought a general impression of life to which she could add footnotes later. She had meager knowledge, inflated ideals, confidence at once innocent and dogmatic, and a mixture of curiosity and fastidiousness.

      Her friend, Henrietta Stackpole, was a journalist writing for The Interviewer and she was for Isabel chiefly a proof that a woman might “suffice to herself and be happy”. She had wanted to go to Europe with Isabel but had to go later than Isabel. Isabel’s stay at Gardencourt in the company of her uncle, Mr. Touchett, her cousin, Ralph, and her aunt was a matter of enchantment and revelation to her. She formed a fast friendship with her ailing uncle, and often sat by his chair in the lawns. He used to think that Isabel reminded him of his wife when she was in her teens. He wanted to do something for her and wished she should ask for it. She did not ask for it. She did not ask him anything except questions about English life and manners. And in begging to be enlightened on them, she usually enquired whether they corresponded with the descriptions in the books.

Critical Analysis

      This chapter reveals James’s technique as a novelist. The personality of Isabel, previously, had been shown to the reader by hints, suggestions and indirection. In this chapter all the hints and suggestions are tied together and the narrator himself discussing Isabel’s character, reveals all those qualities— fastidiousness, introspection, sensitivity, imagination, independence, pride etc. Isabel is obviously a complex and a fascinating personality. Ominous notes have started entering the novel. Ominous is Isabel’s insistence that she will be satisfied for the time being with a “general impression of life”. Isabel believes that a woman ought to be able to live by herself. James underlines the impending note of such an attitude by old Mr. Touchett’s suggestion that too much is not be learned from books: “I just kept quiet”, he says, “and took notice”.

Previous Post Next Post