Literature Study GuidesThe AmbassadorsBook 7 Chapters 1 2 Summary

The Ambassadors | Study Guide

Henry James

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The Ambassadors | Book 7, Chapters 1–2 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 1

Nearly two weeks after Strether's dinner visit to Chad's apartment, Strether worries about the change in his relationship with Mrs. Newsome back in Woollett. He cannot confide in Maria Gostrey as usual, because she is on vacation and away from Paris at Mentone. The setting of Chapter 1 is Paris's renowned medieval cathedral, Notre-Dame. Strether withdraws to the landmark church in search of peace and contemplation. On one of his visits to the "mighty monument," Strether recognizes Madame de Vionnet. The two fall into conversation and then have lunch together. Predictably, they chat about Chad and his mother, Mrs. Newsome. Strether feels even more favorable toward Madame de Vionnet.

Chapter 2

Several days later, Strether receives a peremptory telegram from Mrs. Newsome. She instructs him to return to Woollett immediately. She adds that if Chad refuses to return at once to America, she will dispatch another group of ambassadors to Paris, consisting of Chad's older sister, Sarah Pocock, Sarah's husband Jim, and Jim's younger sister Mamie. Strether has dinner with Waymarsh and maintains that all is well. Later on, he meets with Chad and discusses the situation. Chad asserts that he is ready to depart from Europe at once, but Strether protests that he is not ready to leave Paris yet.

Analysis

The opening chapters of Book 7 emphasize the reversal in Strether's situation that was evident at the end of Book 6. Instead of regarding Madame de Vionnet as a threatening figure who has Chad in her clutches, Strether now favors her. Instead of implicit obedience to Mrs. Newsome's imperious demands, Strether now verges on noncooperation with his fiancée, if not open defiance. Also, instead of haste in departing from Paris for Woollett, Strether now negotiates with Chad in favor of delay.

In Chapter 1, the Notre-Dame setting affords James the chance for multiple allusions to one of the Paris cathedral's most famous portraitists, the French novelist Victor Hugo (1802–85). One of Hugo's earliest literary successes was his historical novel Notre-Dame de Paris, published in 1831.

The charm and tranquility that make up the atmosphere of Chapter 1 strongly contrast with the anxiety that suffuses Chapter 2 of this book. The tension proceeds directly from Mrs. Newsome's abrupt telegram to Strether, demanding that he return to America immediately. In a somewhat strained conversation, Strether and Chad spar on a cluster of related issues: his readiness to go home, the likelihood of a visit to Paris by the Pococks, and Mrs. Newsome's current feelings about Chad's absence. In a twist of events, it is now Strether who argues for a delay in the return journey to America. Chad asks him directly whether he now feels "the charm of life over here," and Strether, just as candidly, replies, "Immensely."

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