Literature Study GuidesThe AmbassadorsBook 11 Chapters 1 2 Summary

The Ambassadors | Study Guide

Henry James

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The Ambassadors | Book 11, Chapters 1–2 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 1

Later the same night, Chad is not home at his apartment, so Strether waits until Chad arrives. He thinks about his past life and about how Europe has changed him. When Chad appears, Strether tells the young man of his stormy meeting with Sarah. They discuss the motivations and effects of the Pococks' visit. Although the return home would be a victory for Mrs. Newsome, Chad declares that he is ready and willing to leave Paris whenever Strether thinks he should do so. Chad also expresses concern that Strether's failure to please Mrs. Newsome is risky, since her displeasure may deprive him of marriage to her and thus of a great deal of money. Strether is unperturbed, however. He says that he wants to meet with Sarah once more.

Chapter 2

The following day, after a second meeting with Sarah, Strether discusses the situation with Maria Gostrey. They exchange views about the Pococks' journey to Switzerland and Mrs. Newsome's treatment of Strether. They also comment on the power struggle between Mrs. Newsome and her son Chad. At the end of the chapter, Maria tells Strether that Chad and Madame de Vionnet may leave town for a few days.

Analysis

In Strether's conversation with Chad in Chapter 1, Chad becomes more candid about his relationships with his sister and his mother, which are marked by serious conflicts. He is convinced, for example, that his mother hates his presence in Paris. Significantly, as the two men talk, they periodically conflate Mrs. Newsome and Sarah, as if both characters overlap in their assumptions, personalities, and objectives. Strether does the same in Chapter 2 when he tells Maria Gostrey, "My dear lady ... his mother has paid him a visit. Mrs. Newsome has been with him, this month, with an intensity that I am sure he has thoroughly felt."

Strether's self-realization in Chapter 1 is especially notable. His reflections as he stands on the balcony of Chad's apartment recall the memory of his first visit to that building on the Boulevard Malesherbes, soon after his arrival in Paris. It was there that he first glimpsed Little Bilham (see the concluding pages of Book 2, Chapter 2). Since then, Strether believes that his experiences in Paris have utterly transformed him. No longer does he feel constrained by regrets about lost youth and missed opportunity—regrets that may have lain below the surface of his passionate outburst to Little Bilham in Book 5, Chapter 2: "Live all you can; it's a mistake not to."

In Chapter 2, Maria Gostrey's casual remark that Chad and Madame de Vionnet may be absent from the city for a while does not seem to pique Strether's curiosity, but it will shortly prove to be a significant bit of foreshadowing.

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