Literature Study GuidesThe AmbassadorsBook 6 Chapters 1 2 Summary

The Ambassadors | Study Guide

Henry James

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The Ambassadors | Book 6, Chapters 1–2 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 1

The scene is Madame de Vionnet's residence on the Rue de Bellechasse, located in a fashionable neighborhood of Paris's Left Bank. Chad, present as the scene opens, pleas a social commitment and leaves Strether alone with the hostess, Madame de Vionnet. Naturally, the two characters discuss Chad. Madame de Vionnet is especially interested in Mrs. Newsome, Chad's mother. After she requests Strether's friendship, she exhorts him to plead her case with Mrs. Newsome, persuading Chad's mother that Europe has been beneficial for Chad and that Madame de Vionnet herself has exerted a positive influence on him. Strether wants to know if Madame de Vionnet would like Chad to marry Jeanne. Madame de Vionnet says she does not favor such a match. She remarks that Chad likes Jeanne too much for such a marriage to work.

Chapter 2

Ten days later, at Chad's residence, the guests, who include Strether and the Vionnets, are on the point of finishing dinner. Chad asks Strether to hold a private conversation with young Jeanne de Vionnet in order to get to know her better. Although he is aware that Chad is using him somehow, Strether complies. He finds Jeanne de Vionnet pretty, sweet, and well educated. Their conversation, however, is interrupted by the sculptor Gloriani, and then by Miss Barrace. When Strether asks the latter if Madame de Vionnet will divorce her husband, Miss Barrace predicts that she will not; Strether concludes again that Chad does not have a love relationship, but rather a "virtuous attachment," with Madame de Vionnet.

Analysis

The meeting between Madame de Vionnet and Strether in Chapter 1 implies that Chad, who soon excuses himself, is orchestrating a campaign to neutralize Strether's mission and to persuade Mrs. Newsome that Paris, and specifically the Vionnet connection, is beneficial to Chad. Strether is still so impressionable that he succumbs to Madame de Vionnet's charm, even going so far as to say at the end of the chapter that he will save her if he can.

Chapter 2, in certain respects, parallels Chapter 1. Again at Chad's apparently amiable instance, Stretcher finds himself in an interview with Jeanne de Vionnet. Once more, Chad has urged his prospective stepfather to "get to know" the young woman better. This time, Stretcher is conscious that Chad is using him, but he persuades himself that little ill is likely to result from it. The meeting proves inconclusive, since it is interrupted first by the sculptor Gloriani and then by the flippant Miss Barrace. All the same, Strether finds Jeanne both pretty and pleasant.

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