Study Guide

The Portrait of a Lady Chapter 48

By Henry James

Chapter 48

  • It’s the end of February, and Ralph decides to return to Gardencourt.
  • Henrietta makes up her mind that she will take care of Ralph on his return trip.
  • Caspar has already told Isabel that he will go as well. Caspar complains to Ralph that Isabel just wants him to get away from Rome. He’s not wrong.
  • Caspar is upset by the fact that he cannot get to the bottom of Isabel’s situation. He wants to see if she’s actually happy, but can’t figure her out.
  • Henrietta tells Countess Gemini that she was wrong about Lord Warburton flirting with Isabel; he was, in fact, going after Pansy.
  • Isabel says that she no longer makes promises, since her vow in marriage has turned out so badly.
  • Henrietta urges Isabel to leave Osmond before her character is changed irrevocably.
  • Isabel visits Ralph before he, Henrietta, and Caspar depart for England.
  • Isabel is sorry that she cannot accompany Ralph home. Isabel tells him that he is her best friend.
  • Ralph confesses that he was trying to stay alive for her, but now he sees that he’s more or less useless in her affairs.
  • Caspar Goodwood visits the Osmonds’, and Osmond brags to him about how wonderfully he and Isabel get along. He irritatingly keeps referring to her as "my wife," as though her own identity is erased. Caspar, of course, has no idea why Osmond is telling him this; it seems wholly inappropriate and insensitive – but, are we surprised? After all, that’s Osmond.
  • Osmond tells Caspar that he should get married, so that he’d be so busy that he could get out of things, like accompanying Ralph to England. He seems to think of marriage as some great occupation.
  • Caspar waits for others to leave before requesting to talk with Isabel alone. She presents him a kind of creepy, mechanically polite Stepford Wives act. We wonder what has really happened to Isabel over these last few years.
  • Caspar asks Isabel what she’s made of her life; he wants to hear it from her mouth, so that he can have some idea of how she really is.
  • Caspar professes his love for Isabel unabashedly. He says that he’s only accompanying Ralph because she asked him to.
  • Caspar asks Isabel whether or not he can pity her. She has been very resistant in admitting any unhappiness to him thus far, but she implies that he may pity her.