Study Guide

The Portrait of a Lady Chapter 32

By Henry James

Chapter 32

  • The narrator returns to the present, where Isabel sits awaiting a guest. She is not looking forward to the encounter, although we don’t yet know who she’s expecting.
  • Caspar Goodwood bursts in on the scene. He wants to know about her engagement – whoa, whoa, whoa! He’s not the only curious and mortified one here. What engagement?
  • Caspar says that he’d rather Isabel be dead to him, than know that she’s married to someone else. Isabel calls him selfish, but he’s beyond caring about that.
  • Apparently, Caspar left the States to come and see Isabel as soon as he received word of her situation. He made it to Florence in only seventeen days, which is pretty darn amazing – we’re talking pre-plane era here, people.
  • Isabel isn’t sure what he hopes to gain from this meeting.
  • Isabel has not told anyone about her engagement to Gilbert Osmond (Ugh! Double-ugh!), except Caspar Goodwood and Madame Merle.
  • Isabel says she isn’t getting married for her friends, so she hasn’t felt obliged to tell all of them.
  • Isabel says that Osmond is not a man of distinction, so Caspar would not gain anything by learning more about him. She seems to delight in this fact.
  • Isabel wishes that Caspar had waited to visit after her marriage. Caspar says that of course he could not have done that, since she would be different by then.
  • Caspar says that he only wanted to hear the sound of her voice, even if it’s not speaking good news.
  • Isabel is upset that Caspar isn’t arguing more with her. She wants the opportunity to defend her decision.
  • Caspar reminds Isabel of what she told him years ago: if he heard about her engagement, he should not believe it. And, yet, it’s true — she’s engaged.
  • Caspar leaves in a rage, announcing his departure from Florence the next day.
  • Isabel says that she’s glad he’s leaving, and breaks out in sobs five minutes after his departure – this seems to be the usual effect he has on her. Whew! That was one intense chapter. We have to go take a breather – meet you back here in five.