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MonkeyNotes-Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
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Notes

Chapter 2 gives us the first description of the "lady" of the novel’s title, Isabel Archer. Her reception by the three men on the lawn is probably as important to the narrative to come as is the description of her. She first meets Ralph Touchett, the sickly young man, and charms him by her self-possession and her impulsive ability to love as shown in her embrace of Ralph’s dog. With Ralph, she also insists on her independence. When he asks her if his mother has adopted her, she blushes and then asserts that she is not a candidate for adoption. Ralph is obviously already quite taken with her. He hurries to apologize for the faulty assumption, but has suddenly become inarticulate. By the end of the scene, Ralph has given her is dog and has determined to make his mother extend unlimited hospitality to Isabel at their house.


The older Mr. Touchett’s reception of Isabel is warm though not as heated as Ralph’s. He tells her immediately that she is pretty and seems to enjoy her company from the start. Lord Warburton is not given much time with Miss Archer. He greets her and then stands back and watches her interactions with the others. His assessment comes at the end when he tells Ralph that she is an interesting woman, recalling the three men’s earlier conversation about his need to marry a woman who would inspire his interest in life.

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