Study Guide

Countess Gemini in The Portrait of a Lady

By Henry James

Countess Gemini

Countess Gemini is not an important lady, but she thinks that she is. In reality, she’s a weak, absurd, friendly, somewhat idiotic, but harmless petty aristocrat; in her mind, she’s fascinating, charming, and very consequential. She’s a desperate fame-seeker, and the idea of being included in one of Henrietta’s articles is just the best thing she can imagine. We seriously have no idea how Osmond, the evil genius, and this woman came from the same womb.

At the end of the novel, though, Countess Gemini shows us the part of her that lives up to the Osmond name – seeing Isabel vulnerable and ready to believe anything, she finally reveals the dreadful truth about her brother, Madame Merle, and Pansy. She does this to avenge herself against Osmond, both for his wrongs against her and Isabel, and for the world in general. It turns out that she’s not quite as dumb as she looks.