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The American | Study Guide

Henry James

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The American | Chapter Summaries

See Chapter Summaries Chart

Timeline of Events

  • May 1868

    Newman meets Noémie Nioche at the Louvre.

    Chapter 1
  • Days later

    Newman encounters Claire de Cintré for the first time.

    Chapter 3
  • That summer

    Newman travels throughout Europe after being rebuffed by Claire.

    Chapter 5
  • Late fall

    Newman returns to Paris to try again to meet Claire.

    Chapter 6
  • Days later

    Claire agrees to see Newman if he promises not to mention marriage.

    Chapter 9
  • Six months later

    Newman proposes; Claire accepts.

    Chapter 14
  • Several weeks later

    Several serious discussions take place at the engagement ball.

    Chapter 16
  • Several days later

    Claire informs Newman she can no longer marry him.

    Chapter 18
  • Short time later

    Mrs. Bread reveals a dark Bellegarde family secret.

    Chapter 22
  • Shortly thereafter

    Claire is confirmed to have entered a convent.

    Chapter 23

Chapter Summaries Chart

Chapter Summary
Chapter 1 As the novel begins, American Christopher Newman is visiting the Louvre in Paris. He becomes tired after observing the g... Read More
Chapter 2 Still at the Louvre Newman encounters Tom Tristram—a man he'd met during the Civil War. They also strike up a conversati... Read More
Chapter 3 Newman arrives at the home of Tom Tristram and his wife—an apartment located on Avenue d'léna, a wealthy part of the cit... Read More
Chapter 4 Monsieur Nioche arrives at Newman's with Newman's painting in an ornate frame. Now that it is displayed in such a way, h... Read More
Chapter 5 Hearing how Newman was rebuffed at Clare's home, Mrs. Tristram encourages him to tour Europe instead. He follows her adv... Read More
Chapter 6 Newman travels back to Paris before the end of autumn and settles into apartments there—luxurious ones that Tom Tristram... Read More
Chapter 7 Valentin pays Newman a visit in his fancy new apartments, which Valentin seems to find very amusing. Newman and Valentin... Read More
Chapter 8 The friendship between Newman and Valentin continues to develop, and at Newman's prompting Valentin reveals more about C... Read More
Chapter 9 The next day Newman visits Claire and speaks to her alone. Valentin has already put in a good word for Newman with her. ... Read More
Chapter 10 Newman has continued his friendship with Mrs. Tristram, who is (like everyone) surprised when he tells her that Claire i... Read More
Chapter 11 It has been quite a long time since Newman has seen Monsieur Nioche or his daughter Noémie, since Newman has been busy w... Read More
Chapter 12 The Bellegardes invite Newman to dinner, and it turns out that he is the only nonfamily member invited. Newman spends a ... Read More
Chapter 13 Newman visits Claire's home regularly, falling more and more in love with her. Claire, though not as enthusiastic as New... Read More
Chapter 14 The next day Newman arrives back at Claire's home, and, finding her alone for once, comes quickly to his reason for visi... Read More
Chapter 15 Newman hasn't seen Monsieur Nioche in several weeks, and he worries that the man may have committed suicide. Also Valent... Read More
Chapter 16 Now that the engagement is official, Newman visits Claire every day, and those visits are especially pleasant because Ur... Read More
Chapter 17 A few days later Newman goes to a performance of the opera Don Giovanni. Although he was hoping for a break from sociali... Read More
Chapter 18 The next morning Newman arrives at Claire's only to be handed a letter by Mrs. Bread. The letter explains that Claire mu... Read More
Chapter 19 When Newman arrives in Geneva he is met by Monsieur Ledoux, a friend of Valentin's. The news is grave: Valentin was hit ... Read More
Chapter 20 Valentin soon dies, and Newman is informed by letter of the time and place of the funeral, which he attends even though ... Read More
Chapter 21 Newman wanders around the next day, still reeling from the emotional blows he's endured. Although he has no details he d... Read More
Chapter 22 Newman tells Mrs. Bread what Valentin said about the family secret, and Mrs. Bread is convinced to tell her story. She e... Read More
Chapter 23 Back in Newman's Paris apartments, Mrs. Bread arrives, because he had promised her she could be his housekeeper. She inf... Read More
Chapter 24 Newman goes to Mass, and as the nuns chant he is saddened by the idea that he may never hear Claire's voice again. As he... Read More
Chapter 25 Newman visits a duchess whom he had met at the engagement ball. His intention is to reveal the Bellegarde secret and rui... Read More
Chapter 26 Newman stays in London for months as he processes all that has happened to him. He decides to go back to America, leavin... Read More
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