The American | Study Guide

Henry James

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The American | Chapter 23 | Summary



Back in Newman's Paris apartments, Mrs. Bread arrives, because he had promised her she could be his housekeeper. She informs Newman that Claire has entered the convent, and the only way he can be near her at all is by going to Mass there. She also tells him the Bellegardes tried to prevent her coming to work for him. He thinks this is likely because they are afraid their secret will be disclosed. Mrs. Tristram helps Newman gain admission to the Carmelite convent for Mass.


Always an ally of Newman in his struggle to win the hand of Claire, Mrs. Bread now becomes dependent on Newman after breaking ties with the Bellegardes. Her acceptance of his offer reminds the reader that he made Claire similar offers of help escaping from the Bellegardes. Those offers were, at the last, refused. Claire rejects Newman as a husband despite his promise to give her everything, including respect and freedom. Valentin briefly entertains the idea of becoming a banker through Newman's connections in the States but ultimately chooses to duel over Noémie, leading to his death. Newman and Mrs. Bread are also the only two people who seem to have really cared about Claire and Valentin, which gives them a bond of grief.

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