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MonkeyNotes-Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
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Notes

The death of Mr. Touchett is not the most important element of this chapter, though at first it might seem so. His death has been forecast since the novelís opening and it was clearly coming. The significance of this chapter is latent, that is, it will only be revealed later in the development of the plot. Madame Merle introduces the name of Gilbert Osmond, another expatriate American. She calls him "one of the most delightful men [she] knows" and promises to introduce Isabel to him some day. She says he lives in Italy, is "exceedingly clever, a man made to be distinguished." He is a man with "no career, no name, no position, no fortune, no past, not future, no anything." She adds that he does paint good water colors and that he distinguishes himself as a devoted father to his daughter. At this point in the novel, this intriguing picture of an American in Italy is all we get. The reader should think of what about this description might appeal to Isabel Archer, who has already given up two very different kinds of men, Lord Warburton and Caspar Goodwood.


Itís also important to notice that there is some distinction in the point of view of Madame Merle present in this chapter. Even though Isabel admires her unreservedly, her words and manner seems less than charming. She seems to have been greatly disappointed in the failure to achieve some grand ambition which she doesnít name. More importantly, Ralph Touchett doesnít like her. Since he is so well liked in the narrative, shown to be truly generous and disinterested, his opinion carries a great deal of weight and the reader waits to find out what Madame Merle will do to prove him right.

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