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MonkeyNotes-Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
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Notes

Here we meet Gilbert Osmond in his home. Madame Merle described him briefly to Isabel when they spent time together at Gardencourt. It is clear that Madame Merle and Gilbert Osmond have been lovers for many years. This information is conveyed very subtly. When she walks into his house, they don’t greet each other and she immediately asks if anyone is there. She does this it seems out of long habit. If she visits him she must put on a public face if she knows he has guests. Second, she reveals here that all her ambitions are for him. These ambitions include a plan to get him to marry Isabel. The idea of arranging to have one’s lover marry another, and much younger, woman certainly seem odd and the reader must wait to find out the reasons for this strange plan. One reason hinted at here is the daughter, Pansy. The idea that Pansy might be Madame Merle’s daughter is also merely hinted at. Madame Merle seems to participate in decisions about Pansy’s fate. She knows her intimately and treats her as if she were her daughter but with a strict distance. Her last comment of the chapter, the idea that perhaps Pansy doesn’t like her, makes her seem pitiful and sad.

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