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The Portrait of a Lady

The Portrait of a Lady

by Henry James

Information Tool

Character Role Analysis

Countess Gemini

Countess Gemini, Osmond’s sister, is a diverting but mostly inconsequential character. She’s hilarious and really very silly, and, for most of the book, she’s just around for comic relief. Her interaction with Henrietta Stackpole is particularly priceless, and demonstrates the Countess’s harmlessly frivolous nature. Early on, in her discussion with Madame Merle, we learn that the Countess is smarter than she looks, but doesn’t quite know how to stand up against the novel’s stronger characters, Osmond, Madame Merle, and Isabel. However, she has a moment of glory at the end of the novel, when Isabel is at a vulnerable point: by telling Isabel about Madame Merle and Osmond’s past, she is finally able to strike out against her brother and his co-conspirator. It is this information that gives Isabel the strength to actually leave Osmond and flee to Ralph’s deathbed.


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