Literature Study GuidesThe AmbassadorsBook 10 Chapters 1 2 Summary

The Ambassadors | Study Guide

Henry James

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The Ambassadors | Book 10, Chapters 1–2 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 1

The narrative centerpiece of this chapter is Chad's elaborate party at his apartment in honor of his sister Sarah. The latter has still not held a meeting with Strether, but Strether attends the party, registering a renewed admiration for Chad's social gifts. Strether chats at some length with Little Bilham, whom he regards even more strongly now as a protégé, and he urges him to marry Mamie. Strether goes as far as to promise Little Bilham the inheritance of Strether's entire estate.

Chapter 2

This chapter focuses on Strether's meeting with Waymarsh, who has aligned himself with the Woollett ambassadors. Waymarsh informs Strether that Sarah Pocock will be contacting Strether very shortly in order to arrange a meeting face-to-face. In the meantime, he informs Strether that the Woollett contingent will be returning soon to America, but by way of Switzerland, so that Sarah can have the pleasure of viewing some dramatic mountain scenery.

Analysis

The mood of tension and conflict in these chapters steadily intensifies. In Chapter 1, Little Bilham predicts to Strether that Sarah will have a controlling say in Chad's future. Strether responds by attempting to steer Little Bilham's affections (and marriage prospects) toward Mamie. Strether even takes the extreme step of promising the pair a substantial inheritance, although he knows neither of them very well. Little Bilham spots in this excessive gesture Strether's desperate desire to help Chad and Madame de Vionnet. Miss Barrace echoes Little Bilham's predictions about Sarah Pocock.

Strether's encounter with Waymarsh in Chapter 2 puts a different spin on the showdown with Sarah—a confrontation that we feel sure will happen soon. For some time, evidence has been accumulating that Waymarsh's sympathies lie with the Woollett crowd: Mrs. Newsome, Sarah and Jim Pocock, and Mamie. Now Waymarsh delivers a message with the abruptness, bluntness, and arrogant tone of Mrs. Newsome's telegram to Strether back in Book 7, Chapter 2.

Waymarsh's alliance with Woollett becomes even more apparent when he reveals that he will be accompanying the Pococks on a trip to Switzerland and then returning on the same ship with them to America.

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