Study Guide

The Portrait of a Lady Chapter 24

By Henry James

Chapter 24

  • It is springtime in Italy, and Isabel comes to visit Casa Osmond.
  • Isabel meets Pansy and Osmond’s sister, Countess Gemini.
  • Countess Gemini, a bird-like creature, is a real hoot (Ha! We’re just so punny we don’t know what to do with ourselves). The Countess passive-aggressively states that she never visits her brother, because he never invites her, but that she came mainly to meet Isabel.
  • Countess Gemini declares that ignorance is bliss, so she doesn’t like to know things. She also says that she doesn’t like to analyze things; she simply thinks what she thinks.
  • Osmond is especially attentive to Isabel.
  • Madame Merle leads Countess Gemini outdoors to walk around, leaving Isabel alone with Osmond and his daughter. Isabel figures they’ll go outside, too, but Osmond makes no motion to do so.
  • Osmond asks Isabel of her opinion of his sister. He implies that Countess Gemini is not the best wife, because she does not speak the language of marriage — um, whatever that means.
  • Osmond shows Isabel his extensive collection of art. Isabel reflects on the types of people she knows, and decides that Osmond is a new type of person in her life. As we know, Isabel is always intrigued by novelty.
  • They join Madame Merle and Countess Gemini for tea outside, enjoying the beautiful view.
  • Osmond says that the one plan he made was to be easily satisfied. He claims that he was not naturally indifferent, but trained himself to be so.
  • When Isabel asks him why he would resign himself to any small fate, Osmond says that he had little going for him: He wasn’t talented or rich.
  • Osmond says that he will now do whatever is best for Pansy, and Isabel agrees. Osmond, playing the loving-father-act, declares that Pansy is his greatest joy.