Chapter 1 Summary and Analysis

Christopher Newman, an American tourist in his thirties, is in the Salon Carré in the Louvre Museum in Paris. It is May 1868. Newman gives the appearance of being fit, though at the moment he is weary from walking all over the Louvre, examining all the pictures that the Bäedeker guide has marked as significant. Lounging on the divan in the middle of the salon, he appears the quintessential American, marked more by his expression than by his features. As he examines the painting of the Madonna by Murillo, he notices a young Frenchwoman copying the picture with great care. Noticing his observation of her, she assumes the attitude of great concentration on her work. He approaches her and asks, in English, how much she wants for her picture. She does not understand English, but understands his intention well enough. He asks again for the price of the painting, and she states that it is two thousand francs. He pauses, then asks if this is not a high price for a copy. She says that the quality of her copy is worth that price. He expresses his interest in buying it, but she must finish it, and, should it not be to his satisfaction, he will not feel obligated to take it. He gives her a card with his address so that the painting may be delivered on completion. She promises to finish the painting within the week. She tries to read his name, but has difficulty. He pronounces it for her, stating that he is named after Christopher Columbus. On this revelation she realizes that he is an American. When Newman asks for her card, she replies that her father will wait on him. He asks for her card and address again, and she gives him one on which her name is written: Mlle. Noémie Nioche. At that point her father arrives. He is dressed poorly, but it is evident that he was not born poor. Noémie explains to him that he has bought her painting for two thousand francs. He is astonished, but he thanks Newman for the purchase. Newman comments on the evident training Noémie has had, to which her father agrees. Newman then remarks to M. Nioche that he understands that he has had reversals of fortune. Noémie remarks (in French) that perhaps Newman can help him back on his feet. She suggests that her father give Newman French lessons. M. Nioche reluctantly agrees to offer to do so...

(The entire section is 935 words.)