Literature Study GuidesThe AmbassadorsBook 12 Chapters 1 2 Summary

The Ambassadors | Study Guide

Henry James

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The Ambassadors | Book 12, Chapters 1–2 | Summary



Chapter 1

The following day, Strether receives a message from Madame de Vionnet asking him to meet her at her Paris apartment in the evening, to which Strether complies. In the meantime, he turns over recent events in his mind, trying to make sense of them. For the first time it occurs to him that Chad has behaved with a certain selfishness, "always letting people have their way when he felt it would somehow turn his wheel for him."

Chapter 2

Strether continues his conversation with Madame de Vionnet, informing her that he intends to depart from Paris. She is strongly affected and bursts into tears. Madame de Vionnet emotionally tells Strether that she has always wanted him. Departing, he tells her that she has had him.


Book 12 gathers up loose ends, narrating the fallout from the emotional climax of Book 11. This book also presents a series of goodbyes, since Strether has decided to leave Paris and return home to America.

Strether's first farewell is to Madame de Vionnet, to whose unexpected summons he promptly responds. Her agitation, already apparent in Book 11, rises to a new level. The narrative implies that she views the fate of losing Chad more and more likely, and in context, Strether's departure will constitute another great loss. Strether, however, remains resolute. This time, he is not prepared to succumb to Madame de Vionnet's charm. In his closing riposte, "Ah but you've had me!" Strether implies that he is now fully aware that Madame de Vionnet was able to captivate him—but his awareness now means that her power over him has run its course.

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