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Literature Study GuidesThe AmbassadorsBook 8 Chapters 1 2 Summary

The Ambassadors | Study Guide

Henry James

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The Ambassadors | Book 8, Chapters 1–2 | Summary



Chapter 1

In contrast to his hopeful anticipation at the end of Book 7, Strether now feels agitated about the Pococks' impending visit to Paris. He avoids Waymarsh as potentially unreliable, and he cannot visit Chad or Madame de Vionnet, both of whom are out of town.

The Pococks' ship from America arrives at the port of Le Havre in northern France, and the American visitors take the train from there to Paris. Chad and Strether go to the station to meet them. On the way, Strether discusses the Pococks' visit with Chad. Strether asks Chad if he will introduce Sarah to Madame de Vionnet, to which Chad responds that it is the exact reason Sarah has come out in the first place, to see the company Chad keeps. Chad then inquires if Strether will introduce the Pococks to Miss Gostrey. Strether remarks that Mrs. Newsome knows about Maria, but since Sarah likely does not, there is no need for introductions. Chad suggests that his mother has told Sarah about Maria and that Strether should allow the two to meet so Sarah can see there is nothing to the relationship. Strether says he does not care what Sarah thinks but wonders now what Mrs. Newsome may think of it. They agree that what Mrs. Newsome currently thinks is up in the air.

Chapter 2

Chad escorts his sister Sarah, his sister-in-law Mamie, and the maid from the station. Separately, Stretcher rides in a carriage with Jim Pocock. During the journey, Strether contemplates his relationships with the family. Strether feels mentally split: on the one hand, he has lived among the Pococks for years, but on the other, their visit confronts him with strange, unfamiliar sensations. Jim Pocock assures him that Mrs. Newsome continues to feel favorable about him, but Strether wonders if Jim is really aware of how things stand.


Strether's up-and-down emotions about the impending arrival of the second wave of ambassadors from Woollett contribute suspense to the narrative, even as they suggest some very natural misgivings and apprehensions in Strether's mind. Although the narrative does not often stress this aspect, we should recall that Strether's success or failure in his mission constitutes a crucial hinge for his future with Mrs. Newsome. Success will mean a new marriage and a great deal of money; failure will mean the crash of his prospects in late middle age. Either way, Strether stands to gain or lose a great deal.

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