The American | Study Guide

Henry James

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The American | Chapter 11 | Summary

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Summary

It has been quite a long time since Newman has seen Monsieur Nioche or his daughter Noémie, since Newman has been busy with other things since returning to Paris. But soon M. Nioche reappears and visits Newman on multiple occasions. He reveals he is concerned about his daughter, in fact frightened for her, but he refuses to explain why. Newman decides to go see her and find out what is wrong. On his way to the Louvre to see Noémie he encounters Valentin, who has grown tired of waiting for his cousins (whom he is supposed to entertain) and tags along with Newman instead. The two locate Noémie at the Louvre, and Valentin finds her charming. Newman is a little concerned that Valentin has taken an interest in Noémie, but Valentin shrugs it off.

Analysis

Newman's reluctance to introduce Noémie to Valentin shows that he is becoming more perceptive about people and their relationships, at least as concerns others. He clearly has concerns over the meeting, and those seem to be warranted. He knows Noémie is a clever woman and a ruthless one when it comes to men and money. He knows Valentin has a weakness for pretty women. As soon as the two are introduced, Noémie targets her remarks at Valentin, giving the impression of meaning more than she says: "There are a great many different ways of remembering a person," she notes, looking directly at Valentin. And as she looks away, toward the women wearing fine dresses, "she was seeing Valentin de Bellegarde." For his part Valentin is fascinated by her ambition, saying of her: "She has taken the measure of life, and she has determined to BE something—to succeed at any cost." The combination of ambitions—pretty, poor Noémie and a rich man of leisure—seems like a bad idea to Newman, and so it proves to be.

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