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MonkeyNotes-Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
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Chapter 54

Isabel arrives at Gardencourt. The house is very quiet. She waits a long time for Mrs. Touchett to come down. She wanders through the art gallery thinking of her life. She wonders what would have come of it if Mrs. Touchett had never come to her in Albany and taken her to England. She wonders if she would have married Caspar Goodwood. Mrs. Touchett tells her news of her sisters, who seem to be consumed with curiosity over what Isabel is wearing. She tells her that Lord Warburton is to be married soon to an English lady. At dinner, Mrs. Toucehett asks Isabel if she is sorry she refused Lord Warburton. Isabel assures her that she isnít. Mrs. Touchett interrupts the conversation to say that Isabel must be honest in her answers or she will not be easy to get along with. Isabel tells her it is her husband who canít get along with her. Next, Mrs. Touchett wants to know if Isabel still likes Serena Merle. Isabel says she doesnít but it doesnít matter since sheís planning to go to America. Mrs. Touchett says Madame Merle must have done something very bad to have to leave Europe. Isabel says "she made a convenience out of me." Mrs. Touchett says Madame Merle did the same to her and that she does it to everyone.

That evening, Isabel sits with Ralph and for the three days following. On the third night, he rouses himself enough to talk. He tells her sheís been like a beautiful angel sitting beside his bed. He tells her he wishes her hard times were over. She bursts into sobs and he asks her what it is that she has done for him in coming to him. She asks him what he has done for her. He says the money he got his father to leave her ruined her chances at happiness. he says, "You wanted to look at life for yourself--but you were not allowed; you were punished for your wish. You were ground in the very mill of the conventional!" She agrees that she has been punished. He wants to know if she plans to go back to Rome. She canít answer because she isnít sure. He tells her that even though she feels old now, she will grow young again. He says love remains and that she canít be punished for long for such a generous mistake as the one she made in marrying Gilbert Osmond. He tells her to remember that if she has been hated, she has also been loved, "adored." She calls him her brother.


Notes

The two conversations in this chapter, one with Mrs. Touchett and one with Ralph, are ones in which Isabel returns to her family and is open about her life. Mrs. Touchett asks her three questions: if she is sorry not to have married Lord Warburton, if she still likes Serena Merle, and the third, unspoken, seems to be if she is happy in her choice of a husband. Isabel replies straightforwardly to each question. In her last conversation with Ralph, Isabel finally relaxes into the comfort of being open about how unhappy her life is. The conversation is very limited in what it reveals. The reader already knows all of it. Its value is in its pathos. Ralph and Isabel are able to show each other how much they love each other and have always done.

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