The Ambassadors | Study Guide

Henry James

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The Ambassadors | Book 7, Chapter 3 | Summary

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Summary

Strether informs Maria Gostrey, who has now returned from her journey to Mentone, that Waymarsh has been in communication with Woollett, presumably informing Mrs. Newsome of events in Paris. Strether shares the news of Mrs. Newsome's telegram. The two friends discuss Waymarsh's lack of loyalty. Strether remarks that Chad seems split: half of him wants to leave Europe, while the other half wants to stay. Strether predicts that if Chad fails to return, the Pococks will surely travel to Paris, bringing Mamie as what Maria Gostrey calls "their great card."

Two days later, Chad informs Strether that he has received a cable from Woollett announcing the immediate departure of the Pococks for France. In the meantime, Strether has cabled Mrs. Newsome directly, informing her that he judges it best to that he take another month before his return to Massachusetts.

Strether is increasingly aware that his relationship with Mrs. Newsome is transforming since she no longer trusts him and since he has become ever more sympathetic to Chad's perspective and also to the charm and personality of Madame de Vionnet. At a second meeting with Maria Gostrey, Strether reflects on how his friendship with Maria is also changing. He looks forward to the arrival of the Pococks since he believes Sarah's behavior will reveal how he truly stands now with Mrs. Newsome.

Analysis

The tone and mood of this chapter are considerably less agitated than in Chapter 2. Maria Gostrey seems always to succeed in calming Strether's nervous anxiety, and the banter between the two of them is nearly always good-humored ("It is clear you can toddle alone!"). The self-portrait that Strether offers to Maria toward the end of Chapter 3 is especially revealing: "Of course I'm youth— ... I began to be young ... the moment I met you in Chester, and that's what has been taking place ever since." Strether also pays tribute to both Chad and Madame de Vionnet as reawakening youth in him, although Maria Gostrey gently reminds him that it was she who was to see him through. This conversation foreshadows the conclusion of the novel, when in Book 12, Chapter 5 Maria proposes an enduring relationship to Strether and he gently declines.

As a whole, Strether's self-portrait in Chapter 3 underlines his increasing self-realization and his acceptance of his own metamorphosis. There has been a turning point in his self-regard. He no longer deplores missed opportunity in the past; rather, he celebrates the broadening of his outlook on both the present and the future.

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