In this day and age, we may think we know all too well what constitutes the American character. However, in the 1870s, America was a mere baby of a nation at one hundred years, and its citizens were still something of a mystery to the old world (Europe). Likewise, Europe was a fascinating conundrum to the enterprising American traveler. In Portrait of a Lady, we see a clash of American and European values, along with an ambiguous space in between – what do we do with problematic characters who are both American and European?
The ideals of the new world, represented by Isabel, Henrietta, and Caspar Goodwood, are incomprehensible to the European old world.
England and America can never truly be reconciled to each other.