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MonkeyNotes-Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
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Chapter 37

Edward Rosier enters the Osmondís house and begins looking for Pansy Osmond. He doesnít find her in the first room and goes to the next room where he finds Mr. Osmond. Mr. Osmond snubs him by offering only two fingers of his left hand when Rosier holds his hand out for a handshake. They briefly discuss their collecting. Osmond says heís tired of collection and Rosier asks if he wants to sell anything. Osmond says no and then adds, "Iíve nothing I wish to match." Rosier understands the implication and realizes Madame Merle has already spoken to him.

He finds Mrs. Osmond in the next room. She tells him she wants him to go and speak to a young woman who is awkwardly sitting alone in another room. He tells her she should get her husband to speak to this young woman and she says her husband wonít oblige her in such favors. He tells her he isnít interested in seeing anyone but Pansy. He finds the young woman and Pansy is with her. He is so taken with Pansy that he sits fidgeting during the conversation wiping the perspiration from his forehead. He thinks Pansy is a perfect jeune fille especially since he doesnít want a French but an American jeune fille. He is sure Pansy has never read a newspaper, has never walked alone with a man, has read nothing more of novels than perhaps Sir Walter Scot, and has never seen a comedy of manners. He rankles at the memory of Mr. Osmond giving him only two fingers of his left hand in place of a handshake. He asks Pansy to come with him to another room to show it to him.

They get to the next room which is empty, decorated by Mr. Osmond in a style Rosier finds distasteful. He tells Pansy he comes only to see her. In doing so, he is going against Madame Merleís warning not to speak to Pansy. He feels "the intoxication of a rupture with authority." Pansy tells him she likes him. He finds her "ineffably passive."

Meanwhile in the other room, Madame Merle has entered. She comes and sits down for a chat with Gilbert Osmond in the middle of the room. She asks where Pansy is and Gilbert tells her sheís in the other room with Rosier and that he has been rude to Rosier. He says he is bored by the problem of dealing with Rosier. Madame Merle says Pansy has thought a lot about Rosier but she knows Gilbert cares nothing about what Pansy thinks about. He says he doesnít in fact care. He says that is why he educated her the way she did: so she would act in such a circumstance exactly in the way he wants her to. Madame Merle says he should keep Rosier on hand since he might be useful. Gilbert refuses to do so, telling her to do it herself.

They see that Rosier and Pansy are coming out of the room opposite. Madame Merle says itís clear from their looks that he has spoken to her and that he intends to confess. Osmond gets up and glances sharply at Pansy then walks away. Pansy greets Madame Merle and then leaves. Madame Merle scolds Rosier for going against her advice and tells him to come to her house the next afternoon. Rosier is desperate. He finds Mrs. Osmond who tells him she can do nothing to help him, that he is not rich enough for Pansy according to her husband. Rosier feels offended at being so ill-treated. Isabel indicates that she wishes she could help him, but that she will be powerless to do so.


Notes

The situation is an evening at the Osmonds and the narrative treatment of it is as if it were a tableaux. A tableau is a kind of stage performance in which the actors donít speak but act out their parts in a way that conveys the meaning. The dialogue is less important than the implication of the position of the players. Rosier comes in looking for Pansy. He is snubbed by Gilbert Osmond. He takes Pansy aside and they exchange words that indicate they care for each other. They come back in and their looks show what theyĎve been discussing. Meanwhile, Madame Merle and Gilbert Osmond have had their own private talk in public. They have discussed and essentially dispensed with the subject of Pansy and Rosier. Madame Merle indicates to Rosier that he has fumbled seriously and dismisses him. He rushes to Isabel who insists on her powerlessness. Then he leaves.

This is the second view weíve gotten of Isabelís marriage and it is as distanced as the first view. Here, Isabel is shown as the social organizer of Gilbert Osmondís house. She speaks hardly at all and when she does, it is to insist on her inability to control or influence her husband. The scene is quite sinister. Madame Merle and Gilbert Osmond are clearly running things as they wish them to be done.

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