The Ambassadors | Study Guide

Henry James

Get the eBook on Amazon to study offline.

Buy on Amazon Study Guide
Cite This Study Guide

How to Cite This Study Guide

quotation mark graphic


Course Hero. "The Ambassadors Study Guide." Course Hero. 13 Sep. 2019. Web. 22 Sep. 2023. <>.

In text

(Course Hero)



Course Hero. (2019, September 13). The Ambassadors Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved September 22, 2023, from

In text

(Course Hero, 2019)



Course Hero. "The Ambassadors Study Guide." September 13, 2019. Accessed September 22, 2023.


Course Hero, "The Ambassadors Study Guide," September 13, 2019, accessed September 22, 2023,

The Ambassadors | Quotes


There was detachment in his zeal and curiosity in his indifference.

Narrator, Book 1, Chapter 1

This balanced sentence contains both antithesis and paradox. The narrator records Strether's reaction to his friend Waymarsh's delay at the hotel in Chester. The quotation emphasizes the important role of ambivalence in Strether's psychological makeup.


It hung before him ... the vast bright Babylon, like some huge iridescent object ... in which parts were not to be discriminated nor differences comfortably marked.

Narrator, Book 2, Chapter 2

The famous description of Paris, with its enigmatic simile, underscores the critical importance of the setting in the novel. For Strether and many of the other characters, Paris is a multilayered symbol, with associations as varied as sin, creativity, liberation, art, pleasure, and mystery.


She was the blessing that had now become his need, and what could prove it better than that without her he had lost himself.

Narrator, Book 3, Chapter 2

These words refer to the warm relationship between Strether and Maria Gostrey, often portrayed in terms of gossip and banter. By the end of the novel, however, it becomes clear that Maria Gostrey has fallen in love with Strether.


They were in presence of Chad himself.

Narrator, Book 3, Chapter 2

Chad's sudden entrance into the story occurs after a substantial buildup. His first appearance, fittingly, is at a theater, the playhouse of the Comédie Française, the leading acting troupe of France.


Because it's a virtuous attachment.

Little Bilham, Book 4, Chapter 2

Little Bilham is speaking here to Strether about the relationship between Chad and Madame de Vionnet. In fact, Little Bilham is lying to cover for his friend Chad, who is actually conducting an affair.


He was as easy, clever Chad, with the great artist as with his obscure compatriot, and as easy with everyone else as with either.

Narrator, Book 5, Chapter 1

Strether often observes Chad's social graces and refined sophistication. He attributes these features of Chad's behavior to the benign influence of Parisian and European manners. Note the repetition of the adjective easy.


Live all you can; it's a mistake not to. It doesn't so much matter what you do in particular, as long as you have your life.

Lambert Strether, Book 5, Chapter 2

These words, spoken by Strether to Little Bilham at Gloriani's garden party, signal the first climax of the novel. Strether, haunted by regrets about lost opportunity, exhorts the younger man to get the most out of life.


I'll save you if I can.

Lambert Strether, Book 6, Chapter 1

Charmed by Madame de Vionnet, Strether drifts away from his Woollett mission and becomes determined to support the relationship between Madame de Vionnet and Chad Newsome. He still believes, of course, that this friendship is a "virtuous attachment," rather than a full-blown affair.


He trod the long dim nave ... paused before the clustered chapels of the east end, and the mighty monument laid upon him its spell.

Narrator, Book 7, Chapter 1

Here, Strether visits the great medieval cathedral Notre-Dame ("Our Lady" in French) in search of tranquility. The cathedral was built in the 12th century and is one of the principal landmarks of Paris.


He declared that his trip was a regular windfall ... he didn't quite know what Sally had come for, but he had come for a good time.

Narrator, Book 8, Chapter 2

Here the narrator indirectly reports the speech of Jim Pocock, as he rides in a carriage with Strether on the way from the railway station to a Paris hotel. The Pococks, of course, have been dispatched from Woollett by Mrs. Newsome to persuade Chad to return home. Jim, a successful but rather dim-witted Woollett businessman, seems to separate himself from any responsibility for this effort.


It brought home ... the scale on which Mrs. Newsome—for she had been copious indeed this time—was writing to her daughter while she kept him in distance.

Narrator, Book 9, Chapter 3

Mrs. Newsome is virtually present throughout the story, emanating power, wealth, bias, and control. Although Strether is her fiancé, even he is taken aback at the influence she wields.


He had put it to himself ... that all quite might be at an end. Each of her movements, in this resolute rupture, reaffirmed, reinforced that idea.

Narrator, Book 10, Chapter 3

This somber passage concludes the account of Sarah Pocock's stormy showdown with Strether. The word all suggests not only the specific issue of Chad's return from Paris but also the entire relationship, both business and personal, between Strether and Mrs. Newsome. Note how James uses alliteration to "punctuate" the prose in this passage.


His mother has paid him a visit. Mrs. Newsome has been with him, this month, with an intensity that I am sure he has thoroughly felt.

Lambert Strether, Book 11, Chapter 2

Strether, speaking to Maria Gostrey, ironically assures her that Mrs. Newsome has made her influence and controlling personality felt on her son, Chad. She has been able to accomplish this by sending Chad's sister Sarah to Paris as part of a second "wave" of ambassadors from Woollett. Sarah is a carbon copy of her mother in terms of values and standards.


Chad and Madame de Vionnet were then like himself taking a day in the country— ... queer as fiction ... their country could be exactly his.

Narrator, Book 11, Chapter 4

Here James seems to emphasize his use of coincidence for the novel's major climax, or critical point of most intense interest and emotion.


There's nothing, you know, I wouldn't do for you.

Maria Gostrey, Book 12, Chapter 5

Here, Maria Gostrey simply but eloquently voices her admiration and affection for Strether. She implies her willingness—indeed, desire—to marry him, but he diplomatically declines the invitation, saying he must return home to America and an uncertain future.

Cite This Study Guide

information icon Have study documents to share about The Ambassadors? Upload them to earn free Course Hero access!