Study Guide

The Portrait of a Lady Chapter 52

By Henry James

Chapter 52

  • Isabel decides to visit Pansy before going to see Ralph.
  • She runs into Madame Merle at the convent.
  • Madame Merle suddenly knows that Isabel has changed: she knows her secret.
  • Isabel tells Madame Merle that she is going to Gardencourt to see Ralph after leaving the convent.
  • Isabel tells Pansy that she is leaving for England, and doesn’t know when she will return.
  • Pansy is devastated – she knows that her only ally may be leaving forever. She longs to escape from the convent.
  • In a moment of passion, Isabel asks Pansy to come away to England with her, but Pansy can’t go against her father’s wishes, even if she wants to.
  • Pansy says that she had done a lot of thinking, and that she is more willing than ever to obey her father. Isabel can tell that she has given up on Edward Rosier.
  • Pansy, again showing insight we didn’t know she had, says that she does not like Madame Merle. Isabel tells her that she must never repeat that thought.
  • Isabel promises to return and visit Pansy.
  • Madame Merle waits for Isabel, and springs upon her as she leaves. Madame Merle tells Isabel that Ralph was the one who gave her the inheritance money.
  • Isabel retorts that it is Madame Merle she has to thank for her misery, not whoever gave her the money.
  • Madame Merle concedes that Isabel is unhappy, but claims that she is far less happy. Isabel doesn’t deny it; she only says she wishes never to see Madame Merle again. Resigned, Madame Merle decides that she will go to America – the implication is that her new journey will be some kind of penance for her past sins.