Asterisk denotes entries on real places.
After rejecting several offers of marriage because she fears they will interfere with her desire to experience life, Isabel ironically accepts Gilbert Osmond’s proposal. Her marriage transforms her from a passionate, independent woman to an objet d’art, another item in Osmond’s art collection. The change is symbolized by the change in her residence. The darkness of the Palazzo Roccanero is in sharp contrast to the airiness of the Hôtel de Paris.
Palazzo Roccanero. Isabel’s home in Rome after her marriage to Osmond. James modeled Roccanero after Rome’s Palazzo Mattei, which was built on the site of the ancient Circus Flaminius in the early seventeenth century. Situated on one of the many “tortuous, tragic streets of Rome,” Roccanero is a “dark and massive structure.” Even the “damp” interior courtyard receives very little direct sunlight. The palazzo contains both “frescoes by Caravaggio” and “mutilated statues and dusty urns,” indicating both the positive and negative aspects of tradition and culture. Representing Osmond’s oppressive hold over Isabel, the palazzo, a “domestic fortress,” seems to imprison her.
Gardencourt. English country estate by the River Thames, near London, that is the residence of Isabel’s cousin, Ralph Touchett. Gardencourt appeals to Isabel’s imagination that has been stimulated by her reading and daydreaming in her grandmother’s house in Albany. As the word “garden” implies, the setting is idyllic, but Isabel soon encounters a snake in the garden in the personage of Madame Merle, Osmond’s former mistress.
After leaving England, Isabel travels with Mrs. Touchett to Paris, then to Florence, where Madame Merle introduces her to Gilbert Osmond, whose elegance and sophisticated taste impress her, and finally Rome. At the end of the novel, she returns to Gardencourt, against Osmond’s objection, to tend to the dying Ralph. Gardencourt thus frames the novel, highlighting the change in Isabel; no longer innocent and naïve, she has acquired the wisdom that comes from disappointment and suffering.
*Albany. Capital of New York State that is Isabel’s hometown, a prosaic place suggesting that Isabel will be unprepared for the sophistication of Madame Merle and Gilbert Osmond. Upon the death of her father, Isabel leaves Albany, embarking on a tour of Europe with her aunt, Mrs. Touchett.