The Portrait of a Lady
by Henry James
Mr. Touchett isn’t around for too much of the novel, but he grows on us, and on Isabel, very quickly. He’s one of the few characters who is exactly what he seems to be – a very kind, very wise, very American, and very good old man. He’s seen his share of deceivers and liars (he did work his way up in finance, after all), but emerges from life generally unscathed by bitterness.
He spends his retirement in peace at Gardencourt, which seems to have wrought some wonderful change in him. Although Mr. Touchett originally bought the house as an investment, something about it made him truly love it, and allowed him to give up his busy, work-a-holic lifestyle to retire quietly and enjoy the rest of his days.
Mr. Touchett’s relationships with Ralph and Isabel reveal his genuinely loving nature, and everyone, even the critical Henrietta, recognize what an all-around good guy he is. To Ralph, he’s more mother than father, and the idea of his extreme tenderness, combined with his hard-working business mentality, makes him all the more appealing and fascinating. Mr. Touchett is one of the more lovable characters in this book, and his death is the first thing that truly changes Isabel’s life.