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2014 Group Reads - Archives > The Portrait of A Lady - Chapters 36-42

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message 1: by Jeremy (last edited Nov 05, 2014 06:22AM) (new)

Jeremy | 108 comments I can't believe we've been at this for six weeks! By 'we' I mean the very few of us who have determined to push through the pain and finish the book. Perhaps a few others will catch up on the reading and join us, but judging from the lack of new activity in the previous weeks' threads I would guess only three or four of us remain.

At this point in the reading I find myself wondering what exactly James is supposed to be the master of. It has been suggested that James is skilled at exploring the psychology of his characters. I'm not sure I see this in our novel. Isabel is still a mystery to us and to herself. This may be an example of realism, James showing no one truly understands himself, let alone other people. I'm still holding a feeble hope that everything will come together in the end.

James's style does in fact force us to wait before we make judgments. About the time my frustration with the plot reaches its limit - why has James glossed over two years of Isabel's marriage? - he fills in (some) of the details through Ralph's reflections. Still, heading into this section there are major questions that have not been answered. Who is Pansy's mother? I may be the last active participant who hasn't already finished the book, so I may be the only one vexed that Isabel hasn't asked for a disclosure about Osmond's previous relationship. How could she marry him without asking about the girl's mother? James's fragmented approach to telling the story is certainly unusual for a 19th century novel.

Turning to the reading, the main action in this section centers around Pansy. Rosier, of whom we know little, reappears and declares his love for Pansy. He thinks Madame Merle will be an ally, but he has misread the situation. Osmond is completely against him because he wants Pansy to marry someone rich. Enter Lord Warburton. Osmond expects Isabel to convince Warburton to marry Pansy.

We've talked about Pansy before, but since this section concerns her I think we should discuss her more fully. It has been noted that there is something not quite right about Pansy. Is it a mental handicap or only the extremely sheltered life she leads that has shaped her? I haven't done the math, but she must be at least nineteen by this point. As far as I can tell all she does is make tea and sit quietly. Yet Rosier thinks she's perfect. Someone will have to translate for us the French phrase he uses, but from the context I'm sure he's talking about her pure and virginal aspects. How different she is from her parents! Rosier declares he's in love with Pansy before he ever has a conversation with her. This fits the pattern of the novel though. Warburton and Ralph fall in love with Isabel almost at first sight.

I'm beginning to think this is an anti-marriage novel. The Touchett's did not have a happy marriage. Isabel does not have a happy marriage. Whoever marries Pansy will certainly be disappointed. (After all, you can only drink so much tea in a day). It's not only marriage that is criticized; it's the entire courting ritual of the upper classes.

To close, I have a question I hope someone can answer. What is the relationship between Henrietta and Bantling? Sometimes I think I'm too naive when I read. I take the relationship as Platonic. However, I'm not sure if James expects us to read between the lines and see an affair between the two. Thoughts?


message 2: by Madge UK (last edited Nov 05, 2014 08:27AM) (new)

Madge UK (madgeuk) | 2934 comments Thank you very much Jeremy, you have summarised these chapters beautifully.

I agree that this is an anti marriage novel and since Lily told us earlier that James did not want to write a 'marriage novel' I suppose its perversity fits that bill.

It is difficult to discern from James' descriptions whether Pansy is 'backward' or just an innocent brought up in a convent. James characterisation of Pansy is very puzzling. And is the eternal making of tea supposed to symbolise an English element to her character since it is taking place in Italy? Gentility? It may be that James did not have much experience of teenagers so was not up to the task of describing one.

As to Henrietta, I see her relationship with Bantling as sexual but because of the mores of the time James' expresses this with the sort of sexual innuendo he uses throughout the novel. Bantling wonders if she 'break down' and if she will 'give in' first. In contrast to the other relationships it is a loving, open romantic one and Henrietta is the real 'new woman' of the novel whose marriage is likely to be happier because of the openness, perhaps because of the hinted at unrepressed sexuality a la Freud.


message 3: by Madge UK (last edited Nov 05, 2014 10:55AM) (new)

Madge UK (madgeuk) | 2934 comments In Chapter 36 Madame Merle tells Rosier that Isabel 'had a poor little boy, who died two years ago, six months after his birth' so not only weren't readers told of her marriage but not of her pregnancy nor death of a male child either! Rather a significant event in a woman's life to leave out Mr James!

It is only in this chapter that we learn a little about the wedding, which seems rather a 'hole in the corner' affair at the American chapel in Florence. Why tell us about such an important event years after it occurred when the decision to marry Osmond was such a momentous one?

I am also perturbed about Rosier who knew Isabel as a child yet is now courting 19 year old Pansy. Lord Warburton is Isabel's age yet is being spoken of as another suitor for Pansy. IMO the girl is being 'procured', having been 'groomed' by her father who infantalises her. Is James showing us the decadence of the society he moved in, the marriage market as it existed amongst expatriates then and why he was anti marriage?


Helen_in_the_uk I did get a little 'bogged down' in the reading towards the end of this section until I hit chapter 42.  As Isabel sits up half the night contemplating her relationships, I was riveted.  We finally get to learn why she married Osmond and why the relationship is failing.  It certainly felt like James was exploring the psychology of his characters to me.  I am very sad for Isabel in the situation she finds herself, trapped in a marriage with a man she believes hates her.

I am also disturbed by the now 19 year old Pansy who has been brought up to obey her father first and foremost - "It's what I educated her for.  It was all for this - That when such a case as this should come up she would do what I prefer." Osmond doesn't seem interested in Pansy's future happiness beyond seeing her married to someone rich, Isabel is even asked to use her influence with Lord Warburton to assist in bringing about his marriage to Pansy.  Pansy is described as "very limited", but I hope she surprises everyone and goes her own way (she did show a little rebellion by speaking to Rosier despite her father telling her not to).

I hadn't thought much about Henrietta and Bantling beyond that he seemed to give her a lot of his time and resources.  I presume he has hopes of a romantic or sexual nature, but I haven't picked up any clues in the text about whether it is reciprocated.


message 5: by Odette (new)

Odette (odman) Jeremy wrote: "I can't believe we've been at this for six weeks! By 'we' I mean the very few of us who have determined to push through the pain and finish the book. Perhaps a few others will catch up on the rea..."
Although, I am not participating in the conversation, I am keeping up with this book. I find the discussion is adding so much value to my reading.


message 6: by Lily (last edited Nov 05, 2014 08:20PM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 2632 comments Madge wrote: "...I agree that this is an anti marriage novel and since Lily told us earlier that James did not want to write a 'marriage novel' I suppose its perversity fits that bill. ..."

As I understand it, part of what James meant was that he did not view marriage and/or wealth ought to be the crowning results of the characters' journey through the novel. Rather, he wanted to view each of them (marriage/wealth) as opportunities/obstacles/challenges characters ought to face and wrestle with as they made their odyssey. Actually, I rather like that mind-set. James certainly uses it in PoaL with Isabel's fortuitous wealth and unfortunate marriage.


message 7: by Madge UK (last edited Nov 06, 2014 02:43AM) (new)

Madge UK (madgeuk) | 2934 comments Earlier Jeremy mentioned Pansy's incessant teamaking and Lily the English v. American link and I wondered if the English custom of taking tea might have some important symbolism. The book starts with a typical English afternoon tea and there are frequent references to Pansy and others making and serving tea. Rosier sees Pansy as a Dresden china shepherdess and has valuable 'Dresden teacups' (symbolising fragility?). Isabel's Thursday afternoon soirees seem to revolve around tea, no other beverage being mentioned. From my online reading I note that James uses 'tea scenes' in several of his books, sometimes extensively. I have counted 11 references to teamaking in PoaL! (Apparently Virginia Woolf told him there was too much tea drinking in his novels.)

I then came across this reference to James' use of tea and teamaking ceremonies in his novels which suggests that in PoaL it is indeed a major symbol and central theme. It also seems to act as a scene setter for polite interaction between the sexes, perhaps keeping passion at bay:

http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Zy...


message 8: by Madge UK (last edited Nov 06, 2014 02:41AM) (new)

Madge UK (madgeuk) | 2934 comments Light relief: Madge as Pansy (use Flickr):-

https://www.flickr.com/gp/97972291@N0...


message 9: by Jeremy (new)

Jeremy | 108 comments Odette wrote: "Jeremy wrote: "I can't believe we've been at this for six weeks! By 'we' I mean the very few of us who have determined to push through the pain and finish the book. Perhaps a few others will catc..."

Odette, I don't mean to be rude. It's good to know people are enjoying the book even if they don't comment. It looks like I have to revise my comment anyway - there was a flurry of activity on the week five thread. Still, we'd love to hear your thoughts on the novel. With a few exceptions it seems the group is deeply divided on this book. Fresh perspectives may help those of us who find the book mediocre to appreciate it more.


message 10: by Madge UK (new)

Madge UK (madgeuk) | 2934 comments Here is an amusing story about James' 'convolutions':-

'In his book HOW TO MAKE SENSE, “readability” expert Rudolf Flesch related a story about Henry James, whom he described as spending “his whole literary life completely disregarding his readers.” The story has it that James and his friend Edith Wharton got lost while out riding in an automobile, and James asked an old man for directions:

“My good man, if you’ll be good enough to come here, please; a little nearer–so–…My friend, to put it to you in two words, this lady and I have just arrived here from Slough; that is to say, to be more strictly accurate, we have recently *passed through* Slough on our way here, having actually motored to Windsor from Rye, which was our point of departure; and the darkness having overtaken us, we should be much obliged if you would tell us where we are now in relation to High Street, which, as you of course know, leads to the Castle, after leaving on the left hand the turn down to the railway station.”

When the old man stared at him dazedly, James continued: “In short, my good man, what I want to put to you in a word is this: supposing we have already (as I have reason to think we have) driven past the turn down to the railway station (which, in that case, by the way, would probably not have been on our left hand, but on our right), where are we now in relation to…”

“Oh please, do ask him where King’s Road is,” Edith Wharton interjected.

James asked in another unnecessarily convoluted way, and the old man answered, “Ye’re on it.”

Flesch cites James’ style as an example of “neurosis from a prolonged lack of feedback.”'


message 11: by Jeremy (new)

Jeremy | 108 comments I think now is a good time to try to sort out a few details. How old do we think Isabel, Lord Warburton, Osmond and Pansy are? My impression is Isabel is about 23 in this section, Warburton 35, Osmond 40s, Pansy 19. I recall a mention of the large age difference between Warburton and Pansy. Does anyone have a different idea about the ages?

Isabel has an inheritance of 70,000 pounds and she's immensely wealthy. Rosier has 40,000 francs a year but that's not considered by Osmond or Madame Merle to be much. Obviously it's not much compared to Lord Warburton, but they seem to think it's not much in a general sense. Can anyone speak to the exchange rate between pounds and franks 130 years ago? I know this is a minor detail, but money issues always puzzle me in 19th century literature.


message 12: by Jeremy (new)

Jeremy | 108 comments Madge wrote: "Here is an amusing story about James' 'convolutions':-

'In his book HOW TO MAKE SENSE, “readability” expert Rudolf Flesch related a story about Henry James, whom he described as spending “his whol..."


Hillarious! You couldn't have a conversation with James if you have ADD (which after years of watching television most of us probably do).


message 13: by Madge UK (last edited Nov 06, 2014 06:47AM) (new)

Madge UK (madgeuk) | 2934 comments Rosier knew Isabel 'as a child' so must be quite a bit older than her. Perhaps Warburton's age? I think Isabel is around 25 now. She was 21 at the beginning when Pansy was 15? She has travelled Europe, had a baby and Rosier refers to her as 'mature'.


message 14: by Jeremy (last edited Nov 06, 2014 09:34AM) (new)

Jeremy | 108 comments Is it possible that Rosier was also a child when he knew Pansy? I'll have to find the chapter where we're introduced to him and see.

I thought Isabel was 19 at the beginning. We're in agreement about how many years have passed though.


message 15: by Madge UK (last edited Nov 06, 2014 07:49AM) (new)

Madge UK (madgeuk) | 2934 comments Yes, you are right, chapter 10, where we first meet him, says:-

'Edward Rosier remembered Isabel as a little girl; it had
been his father who came to the rescue of the small Archers at
the inn at Neufchatel (he was travelling that way with the boy
and had stopped at the hotel by chance).'

So he is not the baby-snatcher I thought him to be:)

I read a review in the New Yorker which said Isabel was 21.


message 16: by Helen_in_the_uk (new)

Helen_in_the_uk Madge wrote: "I then came across this reference to James' use of tea and teamaking ceremonies in his novels which suggests that in PoaL it is indeed a major symbol and central theme..."

Thanks so much for the fascinating link. I live in Britain and we are famous for our love of tea, but I was very interesteed how this looks at the serving of tea as a ceremony with underlying meanings :)


message 17: by Madge UK (new)

Madge UK (madgeuk) | 2934 comments I'm a Brit too Helen which is why the frequent references interested me. I live in Hertfordshire, where are you?


message 18: by Helen_in_the_uk (new)

Helen_in_the_uk Madge wrote: "I'm a Brit too Helen which is why the frequent references interested me. I live in Hertfordshire, where are you?"

Surrey/Berkshire for the last 40+ years, but two months ago moved to Derbyshire :)


message 19: by Helen_in_the_uk (new)

Helen_in_the_uk I found this link about 19th Century exchange rates: http://tenlittlebullets.tumblr.com/po...
and if I'm reading it right 1 pound was worth 25 francs, so Rosier had an income of £1,600 a year.


message 20: by Madge UK (new)

Madge UK (madgeuk) | 2934 comments Beautiful county, nearly as beautiful as Yorkshire, my home county. I once knew Ashbourne, Dovedale and the Pennine Way like the back of my hand.


message 21: by Jeremy (new)

Jeremy | 108 comments Helen_in_the_uk wrote: "I did get a little 'bogged down' in the reading towards the end of this section until I hit chapter 42.  As Isabel sits up half the night contemplating her relationships, I was riveted.  We finally..."

I agree with you and think chapter 42 is a great chapter. Did you notice all the evil imagery connected with Osmond? Some of the metaphors and similes go so far as to connect him to Satan. Isabel claims everything he touches withers. Osmond's mind is a place of darkness and suffocation. And then this line, "Under all his culture, his cleverness, his amenity, under his good nature, his facility, his knowledge of life, his egotism lay hidden like a serpent in a bank of flowers." One is reminded of Marlowe’s Mephistopheles. Osmond wants to empty Isabel of herself. In effect, he wants her soul. The most disturbing aspect is he wants her to willingly sacrifice it.

Osmond is the worst kind of tyrant and manipulator. On the outside he is polished. He never does anything Isabel can identify as wrong. Yet every interaction between the two serves to undermine and frustrate her. In her frustration she opposes him, and at least according to the moral conventions of the time, yields the high ground to him. He then uses an elevated position to mock her further.

On a personal note, this is a stomach-churning section for anyone who has ever been in this kind of relationship. It may be better to be in a relationship where the abuse is obvious. What's worse than being in relationship where the other person crushes you mentally and spiritually but looks like the model partner?


message 22: by Jeremy (new)

Jeremy | 108 comments Helen_in_the_uk wrote: "I found this link about 19th Century exchange rates: http://tenlittlebullets.tumblr.com/po...
and if I'm reading it right 1 pound was w..."


Good information. He could pay his bills without working, but he wasn't wealthy.


message 23: by Emma (new)

Emma (emmalaybourn) | 298 comments Jeremy wrote: "I think now is a good time to try to sort out a few details. How old do we think Isabel, Lord Warburton, Osmond and Pansy are? My impression is Isabel is about 23 in this section, Warburton 35..."

Warburton says of Pansy, "there's the difference in our ages - more than twenty years", so he must be about 40.


message 24: by Madge UK (new)

Madge UK (madgeuk) | 2934 comments Love the link to Satanic evil emptying her soul Jeremy. An incubus. Unfortunately I don't believe in devils and satanic possession so still think she is a silly gel who should pack her bags:)


message 25: by Jeremy (new)

Jeremy | 108 comments I'm not suggesting anything supernatural; only that James's imagery invokes ideas of how Satan has been portrayed in the Bible and literature. "Like a snake in a bed of flowers" reminds me of snake in Eden. As far as possessing her, that's exactly what James says Osmond wants to do to her. Osmond wants Isabel to divest herself of her opinions and if possible of her temperament. Then he wants her to be entirely receptive to his ideas.


message 26: by Madge UK (new)

Madge UK (madgeuk) | 2934 comments I realise that Jetremy, just teasing. Your analysis is spot on and she falls for it hook line and sinker. She has been 'collected' and will be put on a shelf in his mausoleum.


message 27: by Robin P, Moderator (new)

Robin P | 2116 comments Mod
I was also thinking about the "dark side". Osmond thought he could control Isabel and he was angry when she had thoughts of her own. This seems to be the charm of Pansy as well, no thoughts or personality. It reminded me of hypnotized women in the Phantom of the Opera or Svengali. In fact, James' close friend wrote the novel about Svengali and his protege Trilby, which had huge popular success. Apparently, the ideal woman should be beautiful and quiet, living only to serve, and absorbing all the ideas of her master.


message 28: by Emma (new)

Emma (emmalaybourn) | 298 comments Helen_in_the_uk wrote: "I did get a little 'bogged down' in the reading towards the end of this section until I hit chapter 42.  As Isabel sits up half the night contemplating her relationships, I was riveted..."

I finally got to this chapter and it riveted me as well, to the point where I was lying awake last night worrying about Isabel (!) It's as if James, after circling round his heroine for so long, suddenly goes into close-up. All his previous omissions about her marriage must have been intended to heighten the effect of these terrible revelations about her relationship with Osmond.

We learn why she married him, and that they did love each other to start with. But a year in, the imagery used is the stuff of nightmare as he "deliberately... put the lights out one by one." Isabel blames herself for "making herself small" and being too self-effacing at first, so that her later insistence on her own opinions came as a shock to him. But it's hard to see how anybody other than a cardboard cut-out could please a man like Osmond. It's clear now that he has fashioned Pansy to be his ideal woman: totally subservient.

So Isabel's trapped in this "house of darkness, the house of dumbness, the house of suffocation," which sounds like a metaphorical version of something out of Poe; and her only escape comes from her visits to the dying Ralph, who lights up her darkness.
A remaining giant omission here (unless I missed it)is any mention of the birth and loss of her child. Yet the death must have happened as her marriage was breaking down, and this event would have been like a black hole in the middle of her life. Are we meant to assume that it was relatively insignificant (surely not) or that it's too dreadful for her to even think about?

It's symbolic that at the end of the chapter the candles are burned down to their sockets, leaving her in darkness again as she at last goes to bed.


message 29: by Madge UK (new)

Madge UK (madgeuk) | 2934 comments Yes I begin to feel some empathy for Isabel at this point but I am yelling 'Get out, get out' whilst knowing that abused partners rarely do:(

We are perhaps meant to see the loss of the baby as a trauma she can't even think about but I think James is remiss as a narratoe for not mentioning to his readers how it happened and how she reacted.


message 30: by Wendel (last edited Nov 08, 2014 12:24AM) (new)

Wendel (wendelman) | 229 comments A reviewer here on GR compared James to Monet painting his haystacks, trying to catch the infinite reflections of light. At first you see only unconnected blots of paint, then your imagination and your memories take over to create an alternative reality. Likewise, when we read James, we put our experience and imagination at work and, if we are lucky, we feel the light coming in.

And then, bang, there is Chapter 42. As if the teacher suddenly stops riposting with "What do you think?", and at last gives us his own - clear and superior - analysis. Maybe James just decided that Jeremy and Madge suffered enough, but it feels like a change of style. Moreover, the different strands of the plot start to come together with a remarkable discharge of energy.

We now understand that Isabel believed that in giving up her independence she was just blending her freedom with that of Osmond. However, she has to discover that for him freedom is a foreign concept. Who is to blame for this disaster? Osmond? He married for money, but also sincerely believed Isabel was just another willing canvas for his aestheticism.

Isabel recognizes that her behavior supported him in that belief. Playing roles, making ourselves agreeable, using others as mirrors for our hope and fears - it’s what we do all the time. Does that makes us guilty? And what about third parties? Mrs. Touchett's aloofness, Madame Merle’s callousness and Ralph’s meddling? What about society at large? Together we put things in motion, but none of us can control the results.

However, where Osmond and Isabel really differ, is in their reaction to the disaster. Osmond's greatest fault is the pettiness he shows in his disappointment. Isabel decides on another course, in adversity she will prove her superiority. But that decision too is not without dilemma’s. How far will she go doing the 'righteous' thing? What effect will it have on others?

PS1: PoaL can be read as a warning not to marry for the wrong reasons, but that does not make it an anti-marriage novel - however, it may yet turn out to be an anti-divorce novel.

PS2: What about the baby? If James mentions a baby, and chooses not tell us more, I assume he just wants to make us aware of what could have been and is not. The details do not matter, the emptiness does. James may be long winded, but he is very rigorous in leaving out all distractions.


message 31: by Madge UK (new)

Madge UK (madgeuk) | 2934 comments But a baby isn't a distraction for a woman, it is part of her raison d'etre and the loss of one, particularly the first one, is an enormously traumatic event. Also what of Osmond's reaction to losing a son? It isn't emptiness, it is a black hole, something perhaps that James the bachelor homosexual didn't feel equipped to write about.


message 32: by Emma (new)

Emma (emmalaybourn) | 298 comments Madge wrote: "But a baby isn't a distraction for a woman, it is part of her raison d'etre and the loss of one, particularly the first one, is an enormously traumatic event. Also what of Osmond's reaction to losi..."

Yes, even though infant mortality was much higher then, a lost baby would be ever-present in its parents' consciousness. James must have known this, although as Wendel says, he may have felt it was a distraction from the main plot. If James didn't feel personally equipped to write about it, I suspect that wouldn't have stopped him trying if he felt it necessary. I wonder if the baby will crop up later on? (It's so long since I last read the book that I can't remember.)

I really like Wendel's comments about Chapter 42 when the light comes in. Reading it did feel exactly like that. What comes over in this chapter is Isabel's loneliness within her marriage. However, I felt that Isabel was trying to act rightly, not to prove her superiority to Osmond, but simply to try and maintain her integrity and honour, because she doesn't know how else to cope.


message 33: by Wendel (new)

Wendel (wendelman) | 229 comments Emma wrote: "I felt that Isabel was trying to act rightly, not to prove her superiority..."

I agree, but the difference may be small - I seem to remember that Isabel herself was thinking of this somewhere. The idea that superiority may be derived from suffering is of course not uncommon.


message 34: by Madge UK (last edited Nov 11, 2014 03:34AM) (new)

Madge UK (madgeuk) | 2934 comments I just cannot believe that in the long time Isabel spends thinking in Chap 42 that she doesn't think of her baby and the emptiness his death left in her lonely life. It just does not ring true for me and I think less of James' lauded psychological insight because of it. Nor can I find any critique of his reasons. I wonder if Lily found anything in Gorra or Habegger?


message 35: by Lily (last edited Nov 11, 2014 12:41PM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 2632 comments Madge wrote: "I just cannot believe that in the long time Isabel spends thinking in Chap 42 that she doesn't think of her baby and the emptiness his death left in her lonely life. ...I wonder if Lily found anything in Gorra or Habegger?"

I have not. Which may indeed indicate a gap in James's sensitivities. But, I have also been trying to think of the novels of the time period who do a good job on this subject. Ironically, my mind goes more to Tolstoy in War and Peace with the death of Princess Lisa, Anna Karenina with Anna's estrangement from her son, her relationship with her daughter by Vronsky, and Levin's thoughts about their child as Kitty does her mothering. Many touch upon orphan-hood, as a condition resulting from the loss of a mother and father. Or motherlessness. Hardy does give us Tess with her loss of her child. Also, Sue Brideshead's and Jude's tragic loss of family. But off-hand, I'm not recalling a strong novelistic depiction of the tragedy of miscarriage. I know that when a colleague had such an experience, a male colleague commented that, when he and his wife (young at the time) had had such happen to them, they went and had coffee at the diner, talked about it, and went home. They went on to have other children.


message 36: by Madge UK (last edited Nov 11, 2014 02:36PM) (new)

Madge UK (madgeuk) | 2934 comments Thanks for those insights Lily. Isabel did not have a miscarriage, she lost her son at six months of age so in the course of the novel she had her first pregnancy, the joy of motherhood and a then a tremendous loss but none of her emotions about these tremendous events are recorded by James despite all of her musings. Are we to suppose that she was so traumatised that she buried her feelings of this entire tragic episode of her young life? Was Osmond so traumatised that he also has buried his feelings about the loss of a son? Even when infant mortality was high and perhaps people became inured to the loss of babies, the loss of a first child surely must have been significant and the loss of a son in those times even more so?


message 37: by Lily (last edited Nov 11, 2014 03:47PM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 2632 comments Madge wrote: "Thanks for those insights Lily. Isabel did not have a miscarriage, she lost her son at six months of age so in the course of the novel she had her first pregnancy, the joy of motherhood and a then ..."

Thanks, Madge. I hadn't reread that part of the book. Obviously my memory did not retain the specifics and I have been careless about what has been noted here. Yes, one could have expected someone as perceptive as James to have had insightful things to write.


message 38: by Robin P, Moderator (new)

Robin P | 2116 comments Mod
I agree, Osmond would have wanted a son as another thing to show off. He could have blamed Isabel for not providing a healthy enough child (of course it would have been her fault). I imagine James was uncomfortable with the mechanics of childbirth and motherhood but it does detract from the believability of her character. And with a husband whose love turned out to be so conditional, a child would have been a source of unconditional love (even though nannies and wet nurses would have done most of the nurturing.)


message 39: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 2632 comments Robin wrote: "...And with a husband whose love turned out to be so conditional, a child would have been a source of unconditional love ..."

For Isabel, I presume you mean? (On first read, I thought you meant it might have turned Osmond?)


message 40: by Emma (new)

Emma (emmalaybourn) | 298 comments Robin wrote: "I agree, Osmond would have wanted a son as another thing to show off. He could have blamed Isabel for not providing a healthy enough child (of course it would have been her fault). I imagine James ..."

Those are astute observations about what Osmond's reaction would have been. Pansy is little more than a decorative object to him, and he has offloaded most of the care of her onto others.

As for Isabel's reaction, I wonder if James leaves it undescribed because he expects us to assume that she has this unspoken grief in her life? She never mentions it and neither does he, but perhaps we should just take it for granted that it is there.


message 41: by Madge UK (last edited Nov 12, 2014 03:59AM) (new)

Madge UK (madgeuk) | 2934 comments That is surely assuming a lot of the reader especially when we have been privy to Isabel's tbought processes throughout. We could assume she didn't want children so she is pleased the child died. We could assume Osmond didn't want to share her with a child so he is pleased to.

When Henrietta comes to Italy to see Isabel because she has heard she eas unhappy, she goes to view her favourite picture and urges Goodwood to see it. It is Corregio's Adoration of the Child. Is there any significance in this?

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adorat...


message 42: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 2632 comments Madge wrote: "When Henrietta comes to Italy to see Isabel because she has heard she eas unhappy, she goes to view her favourite picture and urges Goodwood to see it. It is Corregio's Adoration of the Child. Is there any significance in this?. ..."

Good catch, Madge. James is quite capable of using paintings to say emotional things. (I think of WotD.)


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