Study Guide

The Portrait of a Lady Chapter 39

By Henry James

Chapter 39

  • Ralph and Isabel have not been in regular contact ever since their argument over Isabel’s engagement.
  • Isabel figured that she wouldn’t be Ralph’s friend in the same way, once she became Osmond’s wife.
  • Ralph attended Isabel and Gilbert Osmond’s wedding in Florence. The couple decided to marry quickly, so they could take their time to go back to America. Only Mrs. Touchett, Ralph, Pansy, and Countess Gemini were there to witness the wedding.
  • Madame Merle and Henrietta had been invited to Isabel and Osmond’s wedding, but neither could make it.
  • Henrietta disapproved of Isabel’s marriage to Osmond – she’s not a fan of the collector. Isabel’s husband is a huge obstacle in their friendship, and they’re not as close as they once were. Without Ralph or Henrietta, we wonder who Isabel is close to.
  • Henrietta and Mr. Bantling have gone to Spain, where Henrietta has published well-received articles.
  • Osmond doesn’t understand why Isabel is Henrietta's friend. Isabel is saddened and surprised that Osmond doesn’t have the sense of humor to appreciate Henrietta.
  • Ralph stayed in San Remo for most of the year after Isabel’s marriage, and then returned to Gardencourt with his mother.
  • Two years after Isabel’s marriage, Ralph goes to Rome to visit her.
  • Mrs. Touchett has not kept up with Isabel’s affairs. Mrs. Touchett and Madame Merle’s friendship has also been strained ever since the marriage.
  • Ralph wants to see Isabel, and regrets that he went about his disapproval in the wrong way. He had confronted her when he should have supported her; at least, that way, he would still be a part of her life.
  • Ralph is saddened to see how Isabel has changed under Osmond’s influence.
  • Ralph has his own thoughts about Osmond’s character; he thinks that Osmond plays weird games with people and the world.
  • Years ago, when Ralph had stayed at the Osmonds’ in Rome, he eventually left after Osmond got fussy with Isabel for having her cousin overstay his welcome.
  • Isabel wonders what has kept Ralph alive all this time. Ralph knows that it is the hope and curiosity to see what Isabel’s future holds.
  • Back in the present time of the novel, Isabel goes to see Ralph. There are numerous visits that follow the first one, and sometimes Osmond sends a carriage for Ralph to visit them in the Palazzo Roccanera.
  • Ralph decides not to go on to Sicily, which had been his original plan. He wants to stay in Rome.
  • Lord Warburton questions his decision, saying that it would be warmer and better for his health in Sicily.
  • Ralph and Lord Warburton both decide to stay in Rome, both knowing that this is in their minds because of Isabel.
  • Lord Warburton says he will no longer "make love" to Isabel (don’t get any ideas – this phrase used to simply entail wooing).
  • Ralph can tell that Lord Warburton plans to propose to Pansy. Ralph asks Lord Warburton whether this is because of Pansy, or because of her stepmother. Ralph has overstepped his bounds – but he’s not wrong.