Study Guide

The Portrait of a Lady Chapter 31

By Henry James

Chapter 31

  • Time flies – a year has passed since we last saw Isabel. The narrator fills us in on some of Isabel’s activities and adventures.
  • Isabel’s sister, Lily, and her children came to visit Isabel in Paris and London. Lily thinks Isabel has changed, but not in the way that she had expected.
  • Lily’s husband, Edmund, comes to England to bring his family back to America. Isabel is oddly glad to see them go.
  • Isabel gallivants off to Greece, Turkey, and Egypt with Madame Merle for three months – of course, Isabel foots the bill. Madame Merle? Make that Madame Mooch.
  • Isabel has gotten to know Madame Merle even better. She is still fond of her, though she sees that there is something still hidden in the older woman’s nature.
  • We learn a little more about Madame Merle’s history, as Isabel has learned a little more. Madame Merle’s late husband took advantage of her youth and inexperience (which is interesting, since that sounds like what Osmond would like to do). Isabel is impressed that Madame Merle still retains a zest for life.
  • Isabel thinks that she and Madame Merle have different kinds of moral standards. She sees that they are different.
  • Isabel stays at Madame Merle’s in Rome. Osmond visits her often, though we read nothing specific about his visits.
  • Isabel writes to Mrs. Touchett to let her know that she plans to return; Madame Merle will stay in Rome.
  • Isabel arrives at Palazzo Crescentini, her aunt’s house, and Ralph is expected to join them any day now. They have not seen each other for a year, and she can’t wait for their reunion.