What exactly does money buy? Different people in Portrait of a Lady might give you different answers. Security? Independence? Beauty? Dare we say – happiness? Or, perhaps, none of the above? Money is all over the place in this novel; everyone has some, but everyone wants more. Most of our characters live on their inherited incomes, and demonstrate over and over again that money is both a blessing and a curse. By the end of the novel, we see very clearly that wealth is something of a tricky trade-off…Sure, having money is nice, but it comes with a lot of baggage.
Although Ralph intends to make Isabel freer through financial independence, his money leads to her entrapment instead.
Great wealth brings with it the burden of social responsibility.