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Characters

Isabel Archer Timeline and Summary

  • Isabel arrives at Gardencourt and immediately befriends Bunchie, Ralph’s dog. Ralph, Mr. Touchett, and Lord Warburton take a liking to her as well.
  • Isabel tells Ralph that he is to go to his mother’s chambers at a quarter to seven.
  • Isabel seems offended by Ralph’s statement that Mrs. Touchett has adopted her, and clarifies that her liberty is very important to her.
  • We get a glimpse of Isabel’s back-story: in Albany, where she was discovered by her aunt, Isabel was very fond of her grandmother’s old house.
  • Isabel elected not to attend school when she was younger. She read a lot of books on her own, instead.
  • Isabel is sitting in the office when Mrs. Touchett unexpectedly arrives.
  • Isabel’s late father had told his three daughters that their Aunt Lydia was crazy. He wasn’t entirely wrong, apparently – she’s a little odd.
  • Isabel is intrigued by Mrs. Touchett, and Mrs. Touchett seems to be interested in Isabel as well.
  • The two ladies talk for about an hour, waiting for Isabel’s sister and brother-in-law, Lilian and Edmund, to return.
  • Mrs. Touchett offers Isabel the chance to go to Florence. Isabel is excited by the idea, but cannot promise to do everything Mrs. Touchett asks her to do.
  • Mrs. Touchett tells Isabel to ask Lilian to meet her in her hotel room.
  • Isabel thinks her life is wonderful; she has every privilege and wants nothing. She is almost disappointed, because she thinks that hardship would spice up her life.
  • Isabel asks Ralph about the ghost of the mansion. Isabel insists that she is not afraid of ghosts.
  • Isabel considers independence very important, and thinks that women should be able to live without men.
  • Isabel is very eager to learn about English behavior and culture. As her current standard is rooted in fiction, she asks Mr. Touchett if England really is how it’s depicted in books.
  • Isabel identifies herself so strongly as an American that Ralph draws a picture of her wrapped up in the American flag.
  • Isabel doubts that Ralph really cares about anything, since he jokes so much and criticizes most things.
  • Mrs. Touchett asks Isabel if she only wants to know about the standards in order to rebel against them. Isabel insists that she wants to know so that she may have the choice either to obey or reject them.
  • Isabel is taken by the Misses Molyneux, appreciating their friendliness and charming lack of morbidity. She goes to Lockleigh to have lunch with them, and wishes she were more like them.
  • Isabel receives a letter from Caspar Goodwood. The letter expresses his wish to see her, announces his impending arrival at Gardencourt, and expresses the thought that he only wants to be where she is.
  • When Isabel is finished with the letter, she sees that Lord Warburton is standing right in front of her.
  • Isabel promises Lord Warburton that she will consider his proposal and not wait too long before giving him an answer.
  • Isabel sits back down, and knows that she can’t possibly marry Lord Warburton.
  • Isabel fears for herself.
  • Isabel needs to talk to someone about the proposal, so she decides to confide in Mr. Touchett.
  • Isabel insists that she is not set on marrying yet.
  • Isabel considers the positive sides of Caspar Goodwood, but she ultimately can’t get over the negatives: there’s something so stiff about him, and she doesn’t love him, which is really the clincher.
  • Isabel mentally compares Caspar Goodwood with Lord Warburton, appreciates the difference between them, and feels that she cannot commit herself to either of them.
  • She writes Lord Warburton a letter thanking him, but rejecting his proposal. She decides not to write to Caspar Goodwood in order to discourage him.
  • She goes to Lockleigh with Henrietta. She looks at paintings with Lord Warburton, who asks her about her response to his proposal. Isabel claims she would be trying to avoid her fate by marrying Lord Warburton, which seems like the easy way out.
  • Isabel goes to London with Henrietta and Ralph. She and Henrietta stay in Pratt’s Hotel. They visit museums and galleries.
  • Isabel sits with Ralph one night on Winchester Square. She feels like being alone, so she retires to her room, where Caspar Goodwood unexpectedly calls on her.
  • Isabel demands that Caspar stay away from her for at least two years. She emphasizes the importance of her independence. After Caspar leaves, she is drained and collapses onto the floor, but she also feels triumphant, since she has the power to send Caspar away.
  • Isabel tells Henrietta that she doesn’t know where she’s going in life, and she likes it that way.
  • Isabel insists on leaving for Gardencourt with Ralph after hearing of Mr. Touchett’s sickness.
  • Upon returning to Gardencourt, Isabel hears and sees Madame Merle playing beautiful piano music.
  • Isabel asks Ralph about Madame Merle and doesn’t learn much, other than that he was in love with her at one point. Isabel comes to look up to Madame Merle very much.
  • Isabel hears of her uncle’s death. She also learns that she’s come into a lot of money. She doesn’t really know how to deal with it, until Ralph tells her to just chill out and be herself.
  • Isabel goes with Mrs. Touchett to Paris to buy new clothes and meet new people. She also encounters an old friend, Edward Rosier.
  • Madame Merle recommends Osmond to Isabel.
  • Isabel loves Mrs. Touchett’s house in Florence. Osmond visits and, for once, Isabel doesn’t say much. Isabel asks Ralph about Osmond and Madame Merle. It seems like they’re safe companions – possibly even beneficial ones.
  • Isabel visits Osmond’s house and meets Pansy and Countess Gemini.
  • Isabel looks at Osmond’s art collection. She grows more and more intrigued by its owner.
  • Isabel encourages Osmond to go to Rome with them.
  • Isabel unexpectedly encounters Lord Warburton in Rome, who still professes to care for her.
  • Isabel and co. visit Saint Peter’s Basilica. Not only is Lord Warburton there, but Gilbert Osmond is, too. She introduces the two gentlemen to each other – "awkward" seems like an unsatisfactory term here….
  • Isabel and friends go to the theatre, and, during the intermissions, Isabel sits alone with Osmond. She tells Osmond that Lord Warburton is the best kind of man, and teases him when he’s envious.
  • While admiring a statue of the Dying Gladiator, Isabel runs into Lord Warburton and almost wants to stop him when he leaves. She tells him that, the next time they meet, one of them will be married.
  • Isabel goes to Bellagio to meet with her aunt and travel to Florence together.
  • Isabel feels something in her shift when Osmond professes his love for her. She promises to visit Pansy before leaving Florence to travel the world.
  • A year passes. Isabel has gotten to know Madame Merle even better as the two women traveled together for three months in Egypt, Greece, and Turkey.
  • Isabel stays at Madame Merle’s in Rome, and Osmond visits often.
  • Isabel returns to Florence to visit her aunt. Ralph is also expected any day.
  • Apparently, more time passes. Isabel and Osmond are engaged. Caspar visits Isabel and demands to know more about her decision to accept Osmond’s marriage proposal. Isabel only let him and Madame Merle know about the engagement.
  • Isabel goes to tell Mrs. Touchett about her upcoming marriage, but her aunt has already guessed. She most certainly doesn’t approve of the match, and tells Isabel that she is very upset with Madame Merle for meddling with Isabel’s affairs. Isabel doesn’t know what Mrs. Touchett is talking about, and feels quite insulted.
  • Ralph arrives, and Isabel is sure that Mrs. Touchett has told him. She is hurt and surprised when he doesn’t quickly bring the topic up with her.
  • Isabel tells Ralph that she’s done exploring the world, and that she wants to settle down.
  • Isabel is annoyed when Ralph tells her that he loves her. He backs off, saying that he loves without hope – he’s not trying to get anything from her.
  • Isabel stands up for her love for Osmond; she has high-minded theories about why Osmond is the best, most interesting guy ever to walk the earth. Ah, young love.
  • Isabel is upset with Ralph, and promises to never ask him for advice again.
  • Isabel doesn’t tell Osmond what her family thinks of him. She is happy loving him, even if others don’t approve.
  • Isabel and Osmond decide to stay in Italy, since that is where their relationship blossomed.
  • Isabel goes to Countess Gemini’s house, but doesn’t want to hear what she has to say about her brother.
  • At one of her Thursday evening get-togethers, Mrs. Osmond/Isabel tells Rosier about Osmond’s art collection. She says that Osmond cares too much about money to give Rosier a chance with Pansy.
  • Lord Warburton makes a surprise visit to see Isabel. She learns that Ralph is not well and is in Rome. Worried, she goes to see him the next day.
  • Isabel offers to introduce Lord Warburton to new acquaintances after expressing her surprise in his bachelordom.
  • Ralph and Isabel have not been in regular contact ever since their argument over Isabel’s engagement.
  • Isabel figured that she wouldn’t be Ralph’s friend in the same way once she became Osmond’s wife.
  • Flashback: Isabel and Osmond decided to marry quickly, so they didn’t go back to America for the event. Instead, they had a small ceremony, attended only by a few friends and family, including Ralph, Henrietta, and Mrs. Touchett.
  • The dynamic between Madame Merle and Isabel has shifted. Isabel is now more aware of Ralph’s complaint about Madame Merle – she exaggerates too much.
  • For the past three years, Isabel has thought about Mrs. Touchett’s accusation of Madame Merle’s meddling in her marriage to Osmond.
  • Isabel is surprised to find that Osmond is not that fond of Madame Merle.
  • Isabel almost blames Madame Merle for getting her in her present situation, but reminds herself that she must live with the consequences of her actions.
  • Isabel has been spending a lot of time with Pansy. She is aware of how dependent, "pure and weak" Pansy is.
  • One day, after one of Isabel and Pansy’s walks together, they return and find Madame Merle and Osmond alone together, deep in contemplation – or something. The image of the two of them haunts Isabel.
  • Isabel does a lot of thinking. We learn about her thoughts on her marriage to Osmond and why Lord Warburton is pursuing Pansy.
  • Isabel wonders if she gave a false image of herself to Osmond when they first got involved.
  • Isabel feels certain that Osmond hates her whole mode of being, not just her ideas. He dominates her every thought and action.
  • Isabel and Osmond barely speak to one another. Isabel knows that Osmond is upset and jealous about Ralph’s stay in Rome.
  • Isabel has not told Ralph how miserable she is. By keeping him in the dark, she hopes that he won’t worry, even if their relationship is still strained.
  • Isabel visits Ralph, despite her husband’s objections.
  • Isabel asks Ralph about Lord Warburton, and Ralph admits that he is very much in love… but with Isabel, not Pansy.
  • Isabel laments that Ralph is not helping her, which is the one instance where she suggests that she needs help. She lets him know that she really does need hope, but stops him immediately so that he knows there are no ulterior motives.
  • Isabel is persistent in carrying out Osmond’s wishes, emphasizing to Pansy that she must not disobey her father.
  • Osmond assumes Isabel has a hand in making Lord Warburton change his mind about Pansy. Isabel is compared to the angel of disdain, looking down upon Osmond and his petty accusations.
  • Isabel confesses her unhappiness to Henrietta. She feels that she cannot leave Osmond because of her pride.
  • Isabel asks Caspar Goodwood to go with Ralph to England.
  • Isabel says she no longer makes promises, since her vow in marriage has turned out so badly.
  • Isabel visits Ralph before he, Henrietta, and Caspar depart for England.
  • Isabel is sorry that she cannot accompany Ralph home. Isabel tells him that he is her best friend.
  • Isabel feels suspicious toward Madame Merle now, ever since she caught her and Osmond in intimate conversation. It becomes clear that Madame Merle is not as she appears to be – she did engineer Isabel’s marriage to Osmond. Mrs. Touchett was right all along.
  • Isabel wonders if Madame Merle is wicked, for she is deeply, horribly deceitful. She realizes that Osmond married her for her money.
  • Isabel tours Rome with Countess Gemini. She runs into Edward Rosier, who tells her that he has sold off his collection to make money.
  • Isabel is saddened to see that Osmond is willing to do anything, including throwing away his daughter’s happiness, just to maintain his carefully crafted, artificial ideal world. He sends Pansy back to the convent to shake off some of the dust from the outside world.
  • Isabel gets word from Mrs. Touchett that Ralph is dying. She shares the news with Osmond, who forbids her to go to Gardencourt.
  • Countess Gemini, sensing Isabel’s vulnerability, finally tells Isabel the horrible truth about her brother: Madame Merle is Pansy’s biological mother, and she and Osmond were involved in an adulterous affair for a good six or seven years. Isabel is shocked and horrified that she is simply a pawn in their game.
  • Isabel runs off to see Ralph, but first visits Pansy in the convent.
  • Isabel promises Pansy that she will return and visit.
  • Isabel talks with Madame Merle after the visit.
  • Isabel learns from Madame Merle that Ralph had arranged for her fortune, but she still blames Madame Merle for having landed her in a miserable marriage.
  • Isabel is half-conscious on the train-ride to London. She is relieved to see Henrietta at the train station.
  • Isabel arrives at a quiet, solemn Gardencourt. She apologizes for not coming earlier to Ralph’s side, but she is happy to be able to be honest with him. She finally confesses that she has been unhappy. He compares her to the angel of death, the most beautiful angel of all.
  • Isabel awakes suddenly and sees a vision of Ralph himself – her version of the Gardencourt ghost they’d joked about years ago. Ralph is dead.
  • Isabel goes with Mrs. Touchett to Ralph’s funeral, where they encounter Lord Warburton, Henrietta, Mr. Bantling, and Caspar Goodwood.
  • Isabel decides to stay at Gardencourt for a while, as Ralph requested.
  • Isabel and Lord Warburton share a sad goodbye.
  • Caspar Goodwood confronts Isabel one last time, saying that Ralph charged him with her happiness. Caspar kisses her passionately, and Isabel, overcome, flees the scene.
  • Isabel returns to Rome, Osmond, and Pansy.

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