The Portrait of a Lady
How we cite our quotes:
She flattered herself that, should she hear from one day to another that he had married some young woman of his own country who had done more to deserve him, she should receive the news without a pang even of surprise. It would have proved that he believed she was firm – which was what she wished to seem to him. That alone was grateful to her pride. (21.10)
At this point, Isabel is more interested in keeping up the image that she’s cultivated than in finding her true happiness – beyond self-satisfaction, that is.
When I say she exaggerates I don't mean it in the vulgar sense--that she boasts, overstates, gives too fine an account of herself. I mean literally that she pushes the search for perfection too far--that her merits are in themselves overstrained. She's too good, too kind, too clever, too learned, too accomplished, too everything. She's too complete, in a word. I confess to you that she acts on my nerves and that I feel about her a good deal as that intensely human Athenian felt about Aristides the Just. (23.13)
It’s Madame Merle’s outer lack of pride that throws Ralph off. Although she has every reason in the world to have a swollen head, she is inhumanly modest.
"Osmond's a gentleman, of course; but I must say I've never, no, no, never, seen any one of Osmond's pretensions! What they're all founded on is more than I can say. I'm his own sister; I might be supposed to know. Who is he, if you please? What has he ever done? If there had been anything particularly grand in his origin--if he were made of some superior clay--I presume I should have got some inkling of it. If there had been any great honours or splendours in the family I should certainly have made the most of them: they would have been quite in my line. But there's nothing, nothing, nothing. One's parents were charming people of course; but so were yours, I've no doubt. Every one's a charming person now-a-days. Even I'm a charming person; don't laugh, it has literally been said. As for Osmond, he has always appeared to believe that he's descended from the gods." (25.15)
Countess Gemini, in her haphazard, excitable, and absurd fashion, demonstrates exactly what’s so odd about Osmond – he’s an arrogant man with nothing to be arrogant about.