Study Guide

The Portrait of a Lady Chapter 49

By Henry James

Chapter 49

  • The sly Madame Merle comes to visit Isabel.
  • Madame Merle asks Isabel about Lord Warburton’s whereabouts. She is clearly disappointed and surprised that things had not been better arranged for Pansy.
  • Isabel feels suspicious toward Madame Merle now, ever since she caught her and Osmond in intimate conversation. That image of the two of them never left her.
  • Madame Merle asks Isabel whether she had a role in Lord Warburton changing his mind.
  • Isabel asks Madame Merle straight-up what she’s got to do with Osmond, and what she’s got to do with Isabel herself. Madame Merle gives a monstrous and horrifying response: "Everything!" (49.10).
  • Isabel is mortified to realize that Mrs. Touchett was right when she said that Madame Merle had arranged her marriage.
  • Isabel goes for a ride to see Rome and the remains of the great civilization. She is shattered by the realization that Madame Merle deceived her.
  • Isabel wonders if Madame Merle is wicked. She realizes that Osmond married her for her money.
  • Madame Merle talks with Osmond in private again. In an outburst, Madame Merle accuses Osmond of breaking down her soul. She blames him for making him so cruel as to have deceived Isabel.
  • Madame Merle says she wants to take credit for the good things that happen in Osmond’s life.
  • Osmond plays with a cracked cup, an obvious metaphor for Madame Merle herself. Madame Merle goes to look at it afterwards, and ponders the flaws of her own soul. She wonders if she has been evil for no gain.