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MonkeyNotes-Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
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Chapter 35

Isabel never tells Gilbert Osmond of her family and friends’ opposition to the marriage. She feels as if in loving him, she is forced to break all her other ties. For his part, Gilbert Osmond is elated with his success. He feels that Madame Merle has given him an enormous gift in giving him Isabel Archer. She is intelligent enough to reflect back his own thoughts in a flattering way. Se is like a silver platter that reflects his ideas to perfection. One day as they are walking in he park, he mentions that he realizes her family disapproves of him. He says he has never strived for money and so they shouldn’t think he’s marrying Isabel for this reason. He tells her he is a better man for loving her. He says he used to want many things and had "morbid, sterile, hateful fits of hunger, of desire." He says now a long summer afternoon of life awaits the two of them and they will have his charming daughter to entertain them. When he finally tells Pansy, she expresses her pleasure in having Isabel as a "beautiful sister." One day Isabel meets pansy at the Countess Gemini’s. Pansy greets her sweetly, telling her she’ll be happy to have her as a stepmother. Isabel tells her she will always be kind to her and suddenly feels a sense of chill as if she realizes for a moment that some day Pansy will need her help. The Countess Gemini comes in and chatters on for a long time about her feelings in hearing about the news and her sense that Isabel will improve their family. She says she wants to tell Isabel some things about marriage and Pansy should leave the room. Isabel tells her she wants Pansy to stay because she doesn’t want to hear anything Pansy can’t hear.


Notes

Isabel is isolated from all her usual sources of moral guidance. She seems to like this state of affairs at the moment. It makes her engagement to Gilbert Osmond even more romantic. Henry James relates only a bit of the kind of love talk she and Gilbert Osmond engage in during their walks in the park. He comes across as charming and loving and sweet. Isabel is also charmed by Pansy, whose innocence Isabel continues to admire. At one point, however, there is a note of foreboding when Isabel tells Pansy she will always be kind to her. She gets a sense that there will be a point at which Pansy will need such affection very much. This foreboding however is stifled like all the others. The reader notes it and sees Isabel note it but pass it by as is expected of anyone about to get married. When Isabel meets the Countess Gemini, it is clear that the Countess has been subdued by Madame Merle in her early intention of warming Isabel away from Madame Merle and Gilbert Osmond’s machinations. She treats her to her usual flow of chatter. The last image of the chapter is of Isabel putting herself on the same plane as Pansy, asking to be left innocent of anything the Countess might want to relate to her of the horrors of marriage.

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