The Portrait of a Lady
by Henry James
Character Role Analysis
We get the feeling that Caspar Goodwood is the only character that is truly Isabel’s equal in the novel. While Henrietta may match her friend in energy and vigor, and Ralph is up to her par in wit and perception, Caspar is the only person who actually stands up to Isabel’s charisma, power, and general aura of awesomeness. His presence is so overwhelming that it reduces Isabel to tears more than once, and, despite her resistance to his marriage proposals, she can’t deny her profound and interestingly primal attraction to him. The electric, fantastically passionate kiss they share at the end of the novel makes Isabel really feel more than we’ve ever seen her feel before.
OK, so Lord Warburton isn’t exactly a romantic interest for Isabel – he’s more of a theoretical romantic interest. Although he’s in love with her from day one, she can’t muster up any swoony feelings for him. On paper, he’s everything a girl could want – he’s a wealthy, handsome, vibrant, intelligent, and all-around fabulous nobleman. In person, he lives up to all the hype, and is just a really great guy. However, despite all of these attractions, Isabel’s heart doesn’t even skip a single beat for the unfortunate Lord. She likes him tremendously, but that’s about it; she knows that marrying Lord Warburton is the smart, socially acceptable, and generally savvy thing to do, but can’t bring herself to do it.