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Isabel Archer entertains many theories with her active imagination. Most of the people of her life have regarded her as much smarter than they and she has accepted this estimation as true. Her paternal aunt, Mrs. Varian, once spread the rumor that Isabel was working on a book. Mrs. Varian had a reverence for books, but only read The New York Interviewer. She wishes to bring her daughters up properly and so keeps them from reading anything. Isabel couldnít have written a book since she has no talent for expression. Isabelís main flaw was the habit of taking for granted that she was right, even when she didnít have much evidence of it. "Her thoughts were a tangle of vague outlines which had never been corrected by the judgment of people speaking with authority." She had always had her own way in her judgments. She has a strong desire to think well of herself and regards any other life as hopeless. She has a noble imagination. This does her many services, but also plays her many tricks. She wants to regard the world as a perfectly good place. She hopes that she will never do anything wrong. For Isabel, right and wrong are perfectly clear cut. She sometimes wishes she would have some hard times so she could prove that she could overcome them and remain a good person.
Isabel admires her friend Henrietta Stackpole, an independent woman. Henrietta is a journalist for the Interviewer and often travels. She is a progressive thinker and is quite clear on what she thinks of almost every subject. Henrietta lives on the idea that a woman can be sufficient unto herself and shouldnít spend all her time thinking of marriage. Deep inside, Henrietta thinks that under a certain circumstance, she could give herself completely, but she rarely thinks of this. For her part, Isabel might think a bit too much of herself. She always plans out her progress. She spends so much time thinking about herself because she is such a pleasant topic. Sometimes she wonders about the harsh things in life, but cannot dwell on them too much since she doesnít know them.
She is completely taken with England. When she had come to Europe in her childhood, it was to Paris. She thinks of Gardencourt as a "picture made real." She often spends time with Mr. Touchett on the lawn. He likes to make her talk. "Like the mass of American girls, Isabel had been encouraged to express herself." Mr. Touchett is often reminded of his wife as a teenager, but never tells Isabel this. She wants to know everything about English life, politics, and history. She compares everything he tells her to what sheís read in books. Mr. Touchett tells her England is a fine country. Isabel is skeptical of English peopleís merits, thinking they must be "stupidly conventional." She tells him the women arenít treated very well in the novels. Mr. Touchett responds that it might be true of women of the lower class, but not so much of the middle and upper class. She wonders how many classes the British have, and guesses at fifty. Mr. Touchett claims not to know and tells her that the advantage of being an American in England is that one doesnít belong to any class.
In this chapter, James reveals what will be Isabel Archerís fatal flaw. It is her innocence along with her untested self-assurance that she can conquer any difficulty and remain the same good person. James makes this revelation with two techniques. The first is direct description of Isabelís personality and the second is a dialogue she has with Mr. Touchett. Itís as if the first is the theory and the second is the demonstration.