The Portrait of a Lady: Chapter 4 - Summary & Analysis

Also Read

Chapter IV


      This predominantly descriptive chapter gives us a brief history of the Archers. The two sisters of Isabel-Lilian Ludlow and Edith Keyes are married in a respectable ordinary way. Unlike her staid and easily satisfied sisters, Isabel is the restless member of the family. Isabel’s likes and dislikes, her tastes and choices are talked about.

      Isabel had never known “anything particularly unpleasant”. She was conscious of the change brought in her life by Mrs. Touchett’s promise to take her abroad. “She had a desire to leave the past behind her and, as she said to herself, to begin afresh”. Her unsteady schooling had left Isabel with a desire for knowledge. She tried to gratify this desire by reading immensely, but she detested being called “bookish” She had a deep interest in life. “She carried within herself a great fund of life, and her deepest enjoyment was to feel the continuity between the movements of her own soul and the agitations of the world”.

      When Edmund Ludlow and Lilian Ludlow are away, Isabel is visited by Caspar Goodwood who has expressly come from New York to Albany to see her. He soon retires, rejected by this wilful girl.

Critical Analysis

      In this chapter, we are given a biographical background of the Archer family and an analysis of Isabel Archer. James gives us a list of Isabel ‘ equipment’. But here the tone and the intention of the author are not simple. She seems to be perfectly equipped for everything and anything in life by the standards of her contemporaries, but the reader should not overlook the serious undertone of social and cultural criticism which flows from James's pen as he seems to applaud his heroine.

Previous Post Next Post