Summary (Identities & Issues in Literature)
Chad Newsome of Woolett, Massachusetts, is in Europe, where he has gone for an extended stay. He has become entangled romantically with a Parisian woman. Chad views himself as a freewheeling man-about-town. His mother views his identity in another way. She thinks he should come home, marry well, enter the family business, and become responsible.
To achieve this end, Mrs. Newsome dispatches her ambassador, Lambert Strether, a fifty-five-year-old widower, a writer who is her protégé and fiancé, to Paris to rescue Chad. Strether never liked Chad, but on meeting him in Paris, he is struck by Chad’s improvement. Mme de Vionnet captivates Strether, who assumes that Chad’s interest is in her daughter, who is approximately Chad’s age.
This illusion is shattered when the daughter marries. When Strether meets Chad and Mme de Vionnet, who is separated but not divorced from her husband, in the south of France, it becomes clear that the older woman is Chad’s mistress. Strether begins to feel sympathy for the two, believing that Chad has a moral responsibility to Mme de Vionnet.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Newsome, growing impatient, has dispatched four additional ambassadors to Paris with a mandate to bring Chad home. Among them is Mamie Pocock, whom the Newsomes presume Chad will marry. The arrival of this quartet from Woolett throws into striking contrast the manners and morals of Paris against those of Massachusetts. To Strether, continental...
(The entire section is 455 words.)
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Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Lambert Strether is engaged to marry Mrs. Newsome, a widow. Mrs. Newsome has a son, Chadwick, called Chad, whom she wants to return home from Paris and take over the family business in Woollett, Massachusetts. She is especially concerned for his future after she hears that he is seriously involved with a Frenchwoman. In her anxiety, she asks Strether to go to Paris and persuade her son to return to the respectable life she planned for him. Strether does not look forward to his task, for Chad ignored all of his mother’s written requests to return home. Strether also does not know what hold Chad’s mistress might have over him or what sort of woman she might be. He strongly suspects that she is a young girl of unsavory reputation. Strether realizes, however, that his hopes of marrying Mrs. Newsome depend upon his success in bringing Chad back to America, where his mother can see him married to Mamie Pocock.
Leaving his ship at Liverpool, Strether journeys across England to London. On the way he meets Miss Gostrey, a young woman who is acquainted with some of Strether’s American friends, and she promises to aid Strether in getting acquainted with Europe before he leaves for home again. Strether meets another old friend, Mr. Waymarsh, an American lawyer living in England, whom he asks to go with him to Paris. A few days after arriving in Paris, Strether goes to Chad’s house. The young man is not in Paris, and he temporarily gave the house over to a...
(The entire section is 1203 words.)
Summary (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
The Ambassadors, the first-written but second-published of James’s final trilogy, resurrects his early preoccupation with the effect of European travel on Americans. James’s handling of the theme here, however, is infinitely richer and more nuanced than in his earlier fiction. Above all, the ambiguous relationship between aesthetic sensibility and conventional moral values is rendered with consummate skill.
Lambert Strether, a middle-aged bachelor from Woolett, Massachusetts, has been sent to Paris to bring home the son of the woman he is planning to marry, Mrs. Newsome. Strether, who has not been abroad for many years, discovers that Chad Newsome is amorously involved with a Frenchwoman, though Strether mistakenly believes at first that Chad’s love interest is the young Jeanne. Charmed by the manner in which Chad has matured during his time in Paris, Strether delays to the point that the Newsomes themselves (absent the mother) appear on the scene to take matters in hand. Strether is in a difficult position, as his material well-being depends significantly on Mrs. Newsome’s good will.
While on a solitary excursion into the French countryside, Strether fortuitously encounters Chad in a romantic interlude with his lover, who turns out to be the middle-aged Marie de Vionnet, Jeanne’s mother. Shocked, but finally persuaded that the principles by which he has lived have deprived him of a fulfilling life, Strether decides to...
(The entire section is 477 words.)
The Ambassadors begins in England. To maintain his social and employment status, Lewis Lambert Strether arrives in Liverpool under orders from his fiancée, Mrs. Newsome. While waiting for his friend, Mr. Waymarsh, who might be of assistance, Strether meets the ever-resourceful Maria Gostrey, who promises undying support. Waymarsh, once he arrives, seems reluctant about helping Strether’s project. While on an outing in the Rows in Chester, Waymarsh reveals his “sacred rage” by dashing madly into a jeweler’s shop. As he does so, Gostrey and Strether realize they are, in comparison to Waymarsh, unsuccessful in life.
The party journeys to London, where Strether has a fabulous night on the town with Maria. While attending a play, Maria recapitulates Strether’s mission as Mrs. Newsome sees it,
Mr. Chad [Newsome] . . . a young man on whose head high hopes are placed at Woollett; a young man a wicked woman has got hold of and whom his family over there have sent you [Strether] out to rescue.
Waymarsh and Strether head for Paris; Maria follows separately.
Arrival in Paris
Strether, who has told Chad he would drop in sometime, seeks out Chad’s apartment on the Malesherbes Boulevard. Strether gains his first impression of Chad through an inspection of this apartment and the housesitter, Mr. John Little Bilham. Far from...
(The entire section is 1303 words.)
Summary and Analysis
Book 1 Summary and Analysis
Lewis Strether, a middle-aged magazine editor from the provincial and Puritanical town of Woollett, Massachusetts, arrives in Chester, England, intending to meet an acquaintance, Waymarsh, who does not happen to be there to greet him. As he waits, he notices a woman who looks familiar. She comes up to him and begins a conversation without introducing herself. Strether judges her to be more civilized, but he asks himself, “More civilized than whom?” When he explains his situation, the woman claims to know Waymarsh, even having visited his home in Connecticut. She invites Strether to walk with her in the garden, where she eventually introduces herself as Maria Gostrey, an American who shows other Americans around Europe in order to acquaint them with the glories of its culture. She then sends them back to America as quickly as possible in the hopes that they will share what they have learned. Strether feels that she is more experienced than he is and that she knows much more than he does. He looks at his watch; Miss Gostrey thinks he is disinterested. He says he just has trouble focusing on the moment.
When Waymarsh eventually arrives, he does not remember Miss Gostrey. He is clearly unimpressed with her and almost ignores her. Later, the two men find that they cannot sleep, so they wander around the city at midnight. Waymarsh asks Strether why he has come to Europe, to which Strether replies vaguely that he is here on business. Waymarsh reveals that he is married but has not seen his wife for fifteen years. Despite their long separation, however, she still sends him angry letters. Strether promises he will explain his business later, and then he asks Waymarsh to go with him to London.
The next morning, the three Americans walk around the city walls. While Strether and Miss Gostrey converse, Waymarsh is quiet. Strether senses a new freedom that he has never experienced before. He feels that the constraints of Woollett have been loosed and he is open to the new experiences of Europe. His horizons are widening, and he notices that he “wants more wants.” Suddenly, Waymarsh bolts across the street into a jewelers’ shop. Confused, Miss Gostrey asks what he is doing. Strether explains that he is proclaiming his freedom. Miss Gostrey judges the two men and finds Waymarsh “stupid." She believes that he obviously thinks the two of them worldly and wicked. Strether disagrees, since...
(The entire section is 868 words.)
Book 2 Summary and Analysis
On his third night in London, Strether goes to dinner and the theater with Maria Gostrey. He is struck by her manner of dress, quite unlike that of the widow Mrs. Newsome, his fiancée. Strether had never previously dined with a lady before going to the theater as he believed doing so had serious implications.
Strether observes the people around him and determines that all of them can be categorized into types. In Woollett, Massachusetts, the only types were male and female. Here in Europe, there seem to be many more.
The play is about an older woman leading a younger man astray. This reminds Strether of his errand to Europe concerning Chad, Mrs. Newsome’s son, whom Strether is supposed to rescue from the influence of a “wicked woman.” Miss Gostrey asks about Mrs. Newsome. Strether is hard pressed to describe her or her married daughter positively.
Strether tells Miss Gostrey that Chad must return to Woollett to take his place in the family business. When Miss Gostrey inquires into the nature of the family business, Strether is vague and says he will tell her later. Miss Gostrey starts a guessing game to determine what the business is, thinking it must be something embarrassing or vulgar. Miss Gostrey suggests that shame about the family business is the real reason Chad will not come home.
Strether reveals that he is the editor of a magazine and Mrs. Newsome is its financial backer. As for Chad, Miss Gostrey suggests that perhaps Paris has done him some good and refined him. Strether tells her that if Chad comes home, it will mean more money and responsibilites for him. Miss Gostrey sees that this means that Chad will get married to a suitable girl, namely Mamie Pocock (the sister of Jim Pocock, who is married to Chad’s sister). Miss Gostrey asks Strether what he gains by all this; Strether replies that he gains or loses nothing. When he puts Miss Gostrey into a cab, she repeats her question. This time he answers that he will lose everything.
When Strether arrives in Paris, he does not find the letters he had expected. Since he can do nothing without those letters, he and Waymarsh go to the theater. When the letters arrive, Strether feels free to wander around Paris and goes to the Luxembourg Gardens. There he reads his letters, most of which are from Mrs. Newsome. After he reads his letters, he has a sense of freedom. He reflects on his...
(The entire section is 954 words.)
Book 3 Summary and Analysis
At dinner that evening, Strether tells Waymarsh about his afternoon. When he went to Chad’s apartment, he discovered that Chad was not there. The concierge explained that Chad had gone to Cannes a month ago and is not expected to return for several days. Strether investigated the place to get some insight into his future stepson. A young man is tending the apartment in Chad’s absence. It is the same man who attracted Strether’s attention on the balcony. His name is John Little Bilham (called “little Bilham" throughout the novel), and he has invited Strether and Waymarsh to lunch.
Waymarsh is frustrated by the lack of information that Strether garnered during the visit with little Bilham, but Strether declares that in Europe one cannot make out what people know. Waymarsh wonders why Strether even bothered to come to Paris and urges him to give it up; he says that he is being used for a vulgar business. Strether explains that if he does not bring back Chad, Mrs. Newsome will call off the engagement.
The next day, Strether, accompanied impulsively by Waymarsh, goes to Chad’s apartment to dine with little Bilham. A lady, Miss Barrace, is also present. She shocks the American gentlemen by smoking, but Strether soon sees it as one more instance of freedom found in Europe, compared to the strictures of behavior in New England.
Maria Gostrey arrives in Paris. When Strether goes to visit her, he is struck by the wealth of possessions adorning her home. He wants Miss Gostrey to meet little Bilham, but she is hesitant. She says that if Chad has gone to Cannes, then the women he is with cannot be his mistress, as that kind of thing is not done in Cannes.
When Miss Gostrey meets little Bilham in the Louvre, she gives him her seal of approval. Little Bilham invites Strether and Miss Gostrey to see his poor studio on the Left Bank, which reveals how impoverished his life in Paris is as an artist.
Miss Gostrey invites Strether, Waymarsh, and little Bilham to share a box at the theater; however, little Bilham does not respond to the invitation, nor does he show up at the theater. Miss Gostrey makes excuses for him, as she has great hopes in the young man. She thinks that Chad might have arranged for little Bilham to get to know Strether first and to prepare the way for him, receiving daily instructions from Chad in Cannes.
As the play commences, a...
(The entire section is 1006 words.)
Book 4 Summary and Analysis
Strether bluntly gives Chad the message that his mother wants him to leave Paris immediately and return to New England. He takes care to explain to Chad that none of this is his idea. Chad listens calmly and politely, and then asks Strether if he strikes him as improved. Strether answers that he does not have the slightest idea, but inwardly he agrees that he has.
Chad, on learning that Strether and his mother have finally become engaged, sees that Strether’s bringing him home is a kind of wedding present to Mrs. Newsome. After Strether states that he has been consumed with his task, he says that he wishes Chad to accede immediately and now wants to go to bed. Chad exclaims that he thinks he and Strether will get along well together.
From Chad’s comments, Strether asks if he is not with a woman now. Chad does not understand what that has to do with his being in Paris. If he wants to return to New England, no woman could prevent him. He is not about to allow any woman dictate his actions. He alikes Paris for itself, not for any woman’s being there.
After their meeting, Strether cannot decide if Chad is a pagan or a gentleman. Chad shows considerable attention to Strether, who is spending less time, but more eloquence, in writing to Mrs. Newsome. He finds no evidence of a woman, but hesitates to tell Chad's mother so, for fear that his sister, Mrs. Pocock, will take a hand in the matter. Mrs. Pocock from the first did not trust Strether’s abilities for such a mission.
When Strether introduces Chad to Miss Gostrey, he is surprised that she is on her guard with the young man. She is not as taken with him as is Strether, and she believes, unlike Strether, that there is indeed a woman involved. However, Miss Gostrey feels that she is virtuous, and so is Chad. Strether is confused as to why, then, Chad keeps her a secret. Miss Gostrey guesses that she is too good, and that Chad is seeking to get away from her.
As Strether dines with Chad and his friends, he learns from little Bilham that there is indeed a woman, and it is a virtuous attachment. Strether later tells Miss Gostrey that he has learned that Chad has two women friends, a mother and her daughter, whom Chad wants Strether to meet. Miss Gostrey assumes Chad is interested in the daughter. Strether reminds her about Mamie Pocock, whom Chad is supposed to marry back in Woollett. Miss Gostrey...
(The entire section is 963 words.)
Book 5 Summary and Analysis
Chad invites Strether to go with him to the home of Gloriani, the renowned sculptor. Strether agrees, mainly because Madame de Vionnet and her daughter, the rumored women in Chad’s life, will be present. Strether is very impressed when meeting the artist, but feels he is somehow being put to the test, a test that he fears he has failed. Little Bilham, who is also in attendance, gives him some reassurance.
Little Bilham tells Strether that Madame de Vionnet’s husband is still alive, and he insinuates that Chad is in love with the daughter. Miss Barrace is excited to see them. She speaks of little Bilham as an American coming to convert the savages. The fact that he has been converted himself, she claims, was inevitable. However, she believes Waymarsh will be the one to resist conversion.
As Chad introduces Madame de Vionnet to him, Strether is impressed by Chad’s gift for presentation. He finds that Madame de Vionnet is not what he expected; there is less a feeling of “wealth” than he had in his mental image of her. He is also surprised that she and Miss Gostrey had been previously acquainted. More than anything, he is struck by the fact that he could not imagine her in Woollett nor can he envision visiting her there as he is does Paris.
Talking with little Bilham, Strether tells the young artist to live for the moment. In his past, Strether had the illusion of freedom. Now, too late, he realizes he was mistaken. He urges little Bilham not to make his mistake and to live.
When Chad brings Jeanne, Madame de Vionnet’s daughter, to meet him he has a sudden revelation that it is she who is Chad’s lover, not her mother. After they leave, Strether turns to little Bilham to discuss this, but he finds that the young man has gone.
When Miss Gostrey joins him, Strether tells her of his discovery. She in turn tells him that Madame de Vionnet is an old school friend with whom she has lost contact. As a result, Miss Gostrey washes her hands of the affair and will no longer be involved in Chad’s and the de Vionnets’ relationships, whatever they may be. Miss Gostrey gives Strether some additional background, namely, that Monsieur de Vionnet was a brute, and Madame de Vionnet has lived apart from him for several years. It is also impossible for them to choose to divorce. Miss Gostrey also informs Strether that Madame de Vionnet has influenced Chad’s...
(The entire section is 967 words.)
Book 6 Summary and Analysis
At Madame de Vionnet’s home, Chad pleads another engagement and leaves her and Strether alone to get better acquainted. Strether looks around at Madame de Vionnet’s furnishings and sees the noble history of France. It had the “air of supreme respectability,” quite the opposite of what he had expected. In the midst of all the historical artifacts, Madame de Vionnet seems to him incredibly new. He sees a sadness in her, causing him to think of her as “the poor lady.”
Madame de Vionnet says that she hopes Strether has not found her “impossible,” and asks if Mrs. Newsome has given him up because he has not sent Chad home. He says that she has not yet. Madame de Vionnet wants him to tell Mrs. Newsome the truth about them. Strether asks if she wants Chad to marry her daughter. She says she does not, and neither does Chad, because he likes her too much. Strether asks if this refers to taking her to America. Madame de Vionnet says she and Chad watch over Jeanne, and Strether must help them. She wants Strether to find out if Jeanne is in love with Chad. Strether is more concerned at this point with saving Madame de Vionnet.
Ten days later, at a dinner at Chad’s home, Chad arranges for Strether to talk with Jeanne alone. Strether knows he is being used, but he is not exactly sure in what way. He has wondered what he should write to Mrs. Newsome and decides to tell her everything—except that he has decided to “save” Madame de Vionnet.
Strether asks Miss Barrace if she thinks Madame de Vionnet will divorce so she can marry Chad. Miss Barrace says she will not, plus she warns Strether not to believe everything about her husband, who is really quite pleasant. Her relationship with Chad is completely innocent. In the meantime, Miss Barrace has to deal with Waymarsh, who impulsively buys her presents. Strether says that Waymarsh thinks that Strether has a life of his own, when he himself feels he only has a life for other people.
Madame de Vionnet asks Strether about Miss Gostrey’s sudden disappearance from her life. Strether, not wanting to be caught in the middle of two women, does not know what to say. Madame de Vionnet guesses something has gone wrong in their friendship but is fatalistic about it.
Madame de Vionnet reminds Strether of his promise to save her in the eyes of Chad’s mother. She pins Strether down into admitting that she...
(The entire section is 949 words.)
Book 7 Summary and Analysis
Strether often goes to the cathedral of Notre Dame as a quiet refuge from his problems. He is alone, as Miss Gostrey has been away for three weeks. He continues to see the de Vionnets, Chad, and little Bilham frequently, but it is his times alone at Notre Dame that he most treasures. He often sees a woman there, deeply involved in her meditation and worship. He contemplates his mission, in which he has willfully failed, when he realizes the penitent woman is Madam e de Vionnet. She is pleased to see him. He brings up his promise to save her, which he has done by writing positively about her to Chad’s mother, telling how much she has helped Chad. She begs him to stay and keep Chad in Paris as well, fearing that, if he returns to Woollett, Mrs. Newsome will want to marry him off to someone there. Strether tells her that the question will come up as to what future Madame de Vionnet offers Chad. She begs Strether to save Chad. By doing this he will save her as well.
Three days later Strether receives a telegram, which he reads, then angrily crumples while Waymarsh watches him from the window. When Strether sees him watching, he carefully folds the telegram and puts it in his pocket. The next day he begins a letter, leaves it unfinished, and goes for a walk until far into the night. When Chad comes the next day, he sees the telegram on the windowsill and knows its implications. Chad has come to take Strether back to Woollett. Strether tells him that the telegram is from his mother, who is worn out waiting for them. She has ordered Strether home, with or without Chad. She is sending Mr. and Mrs. Pocock and Mamie to retrieve Chad instead. Strether asks Chad to stay with him in Paris. Chad says he wants to go home to see his mother. Chad silently pledges, however, to stay and stand by Strether.
When Strether sees Miss Gostrey on her return to Paris, he tells her that he suspects Waymarsh of being an informant, communicating with Woollett about Strether’s activities. It is for this reason that Strether intends stubbornly to remain in Paris. Miss Gostrey is impressed by the change in him, especially in his strength of will.
Strether cables Mrs. Newsome that he will stay another month, but appreciates the reinforcements. In the meantime, he hears less and less from Mrs. Newsome, but he is fine with that. He continues to enjoy Paris, telling Miss Gostrey that Europe makes him feel...
(The entire section is 968 words.)
Book 8 Summary and Analysis
Strether avoids Waymarsh, although neither has mentioned the telegram. Strether is also fearful that, by being in close proximity to Waymarsh’s New England narrow-mindedness, he will reawaken his own. No longer tied to Waymarsh’s company, Strether feels even more liberated than before. He travels around France and is free to be a mere tourist.
As he awaits the arrival of the new ambassadors, Strether is overcome by a fear of Sarah Pocock. He goes to visit Madame de Vionnet, but finds that she has gone to the country for a few days (Chad is also absent from Paris during this time). Strether feels less confident, and he also feels a sense of being bereft by the French woman’s absence.
The “deputation from Woollett” arrives, and Strether and Chad meet them at the station. Strether confesses his fear to Chad of Sarah’s meeting Madame de Vionnet. At any rate, Strether has no intention of introducing Miss Gostrey to the Pococks, no matter what Mrs. Newsome suspects in going on between the two of them.
On the way back from the station, Strether rides with Jim Pocock. He feels some relief, taking it as a good sign that Sarah smiled on her arrival. Strether is disturbed that they were not immediately struck with the positive change in Chad as he himself was. Strether notes that Jim has an insignificant role. He has left the “business” end of their trip to his wife; he intends simply to enjoy himself. He states that if he were Chad, he would not leave Paris to return to Woollett and take up the advertising business.
The next day Strether goes to Sarah’s salon, shocked to find Madame de Vionnet, along with Waymarsh, already there, with Sarah telling the comtesse that she already knows Paris. This causes an unaccountable chill in Strether’s heart. Madame de Vionnet’s familiar greeting makes Strether feel that she is contributing unknowingly to his doom. In addition, she states that Strether is a good example of what can happen when one “lets one’s self go.” Madame de Vionnet digs the hole even deeper when she tells Sarah of the close relationship Strether has with Miss Gostrey. Waymarsh weighs in, telling Sarah that it is obvious Miss Gostrey loves Strether. Madame de Vionnet invites him to visit her, since she was absent when he came calling previously. Madame de Vionnet also wants Mamie to meet Jeanne. Sarah agrees to bring her when she returns...
(The entire section is 962 words.)
Book 9 Summary and Analysis
Visiting Madame de Vionnet, Strether expresses his frustration with the Pococks and their continued refusal to admit the change in Chad. He directs his frustration at Sarah, whom he cannot see as charming, despite Madame de Vionnet's high opinion of the girl. She is resigned to Chad’s infrequent visits now that his family has arrived. Chad is spending most of his time with Jim. Strether warns Madame de Vionnet that Jim thinks of her as a delightfully “bad” woman of the world. He also believes that Jim does not want Chad to go back to Woollett because he feels overshadowed by Chad’s stronger personality. In Mrs. Pocock’s view, everyone has been paired off: Madame de Vionnet and Chad, Strether and Miss Gostrey, and Jim with the city of Paris itself. Only Mamie is alone, which worries Madame de Vionnet.
As Madame de Vionnet shows Strether out the door, she suddenly announces to him that Jeanne is to be married. It has been arranged in the last few days by Chad. The fact that Jeanne’s father was not involved in the decision strikes Strether as ominous. He realizes that he does not know everything that has occurred between Chad and Madame de Vionnet.
Strether, despite repeated attempts, has yet to have a conversation alone with Sarah. Visiting with Miss Gostrey (now occasionally referred to as “Maria”), he discusses the odd pairing of Sarah and Waymarsh, with Jim left to his own devices. Strether states that if Mrs. Newsome had known Jim’s intention to enjoy Paris rather than take part in the “mission,” she never would have sent him.
Miss Gostrey tells Strether about Jeanne’s marriage and is surprised that he already knows about it. They discuss the implications of Chad’s involvement with it, knowing that it means that his relationship with Madame de Vionnet is not as virtuous as they have been led to believe.
On a subsequent visit to Sarah’s apartment, Strether is shown in, but no one seems to be there. He sees a letter addressed to Sarah from Mrs. Newsome on the table. Since he has not heard from his fiancée since the Pococks’ arrival, he is convinced more than ever that her silence means he has been “disinherited.”
Strether soon realizes that he is not alone. Mamie is out on the balcony, looking out over the city. She is startled on discovering Strether’s presence, thinking that he was Bilham. This strikes Strether as...
(The entire section is 1013 words.)
Book 10 Summary and Analysis
Chad has a large dinner party in order to display his life in Paris more fully to his family. Strether talks with Bilham about the effect of this on the Pococks. Although Sarah is impressed with such an occasion, she believes that it could be done just as easily, and perhaps even better, in Woollett. Bilham offers Strether his help, which Strether gratefully accepts. Although at one time Strether wanted Bilham’s help in convincing Chad to marry Mamie, now he wants his help to do the exact opposite. He wants Bilham to be the one to marry Mamie. Strether promises to leave him all his property in his will. Mamie, like Strether, had come to Paris to save Chad, in her case by marrying him. Now that she is set free from that mission, she may do what she wants; that is, marry Bilham. By doing so, she would “save” Strether by removing one reason for Chad to return to Woollett.
With Miss Barrace, Strether talks of the effectiveness of the party in convincing the Pococks of the change in Chad. Miss Gostrey is not present because she still wants to avoid any responsibility in the situation. Miss Barrace speaks of “losing” Waymarsh to Mrs. Pocock. Jim, in the meantime, has been entertained by Madame de Vionnet, since Chad has his hands full with Sarah.
A week later, while Strether is at breakfast, Waymarsh comes in, dressed like a Southern planter and fresh from the flower market with Sarah Pocock. He tells Strether that Sarah will come to visit him in one hour. Strether, semi-jokingly, asks if she is coming to kill him. Waymarsh replies that she is coming to be very, very kind to him, and he expects him to be the same to her. He also tells Strether that he and the Pococks are leaving for a month in Switzerland and then sailing for home. It is clear that Strether is not going to be invited on the trip. When Strether asks if Sarah had received instructions from her mother to break off their mission and return to Woollett, Waymarsh says he knows nothing of Mrs. Newsome’s cables. Strether knows that this is a lie. Before he leaves, Waymarsh once again urges him (but with less intensity than before) to leave Paris.
When Sarah arrives, Strether feels it is clear that she has come for nothing less than his submission. Strether thinks that Sarah is claiming that Chad has put the full responsibility for his remaining in Paris on him. Sarah calls Strether’s conduct an...
(The entire section is 970 words.)
Book 11 Summary and Analysis
Strether goes to Chad’s apartment repeatedly, only to find him out. Finally, he stays and waits for Chad’s return. When Chad at last comes in, Strether confronts him with Sarah’s report that has placed all the blame on him. Chad reveals that it was he who has pushed Sarah to go see Strether. It is Strether’s belief that it was not Chad whom the Pococks came to Europe to see, but to find out what Strether was doing. Strether tells Chad that he must see Sarah again, and that he wants to end it on better terms with her. They both remind each other that they stand to lose a great deal of money should Mrs. Newsome cut them off. Chad believes that his return home will mean that Sarah will win a victory over him.
After Strether’s second meeting with Sarah, he goes once more to Miss Gostrey’s to tell her that the Pococks, Waymarsh, and little Bilham are off to Switzerland. Miss Gostrey is surprised that Bilham went, but Strether tells her that the artist is going for his sake more than Mamie’s. Miss Gostrey tells him that she should be leaving Paris soon as summer is coming on, but Strether asks her to stay for his sake.
Strether asks her why she initially left Paris and abandoned him. She replies that she was afraid that Madame de Vionnet might tell him something to her detriment so she could have him all to herself. She asks him if he still wants Mrs. Newsome, but he says he has disappointed her too much. If he takes Chad back to Woollett now, he would disappoint Miss Gostrey, which would bother him more.
The purpose for Strether’s second visit to Sarah was to ask for a delay. Miss Gostrey suggests that Chad pay his mother a visit, but Strether says that he has effectively done so through Sarah for the past month. In the end, however, they wanted to get away from Strether, says Miss Gostrey, because of what Mrs. Newsome has done to Strether, who disagrees that she has done anything to him yet.
Strether leaves Paris for a few days’ rest out in the suburbs. He enjoys the freedom of the country setting and the freedom he feels as a result of the departure of Sarah Pocock. He stays at an inn that looks out over the river. He sees a man and a woman in a boat on the river in intimate conversation. The woman sees him and motions to the man, who turns and reveals himself to be Chad; the woman is Madame de Vionnet. They act guilty at being caught together....
(The entire section is 944 words.)
Book 12 Summary and Analysis
After Strether returns to Paris, he receives a telegram from Madame de Vionnet asking him to come to see her at 9:30 that evening. Ignoring the added message that she would come to him at any time should he find that more convenient, he sends her a reply that he will be there.
Madame de Vionnet informs him that she knew she had not fooled Strether. She tested him and he passed. Chad had let her do this; Chad always let her have her way. She knows Strether will view her as selfish and vulgar, but she asks him to stay with her anyway. She also knows that his life has changed because of her. She starts to cry, and all of a sudden it strikes Strether how old she looks. She tells him that she has wanted him all along. Strether replies, as he leaves, that she has had him.
Strether plans to see Chad the next day, since it had obviously been arranged that he should see Madame de Vionnet first so that she could prepare the way. However, Chad is not at home. It occurs to Strether that he and the comtesse continued their trip that he had interrupted. Later in the week, he goes to visit Miss Gostrey, who tells him that Madame de Vionnet has been to see her. It appears that she came for news about Chad, whom she has not seen for several days. The comtesse had assumed he was with Strether, and Miss Gostrey did not know what to tell her.
Miss Gostrey finally admits that she had left Paris so that she would not have to lie to Strether about Chad and Madame de Vionnet’s relationship, which she knew was actually an affair all along. Strether says that little Bilham had also lied to him, since he knew the truth as well.
Miss Gostrey tells Strether that Madame de Vionnet fears that he has taken his final leave of her. Strether admits that he has; he plans never to see her again. Miss Gostrey says she is sorry for all of them.
Strether goes once again to Chad’s apartment and sees Chad standing on the balcony, just as he had seen Bilham so long ago. Saying good-bye, Strether tells Chad that he will be a brute if he leaves Madame de Vionnet. Chad strikes Strether as incredibly young, much younger than Madame de Vionnet. He reiterates to Chad that if he leaves, he will not only be a brute, he will be “a criminal of the deepest dye.” Chad tells him that he has been in London to look into opening an advertising office there. Strether is convinced that he has sold the...
(The entire section is 961 words.)