The American Chapter 2 Summary and Analysis

Henry James

Chapter 2 Summary and Analysis

After Noémie leaves, Newman returns to the divan, looking at a new painting. He sees another copyist and is considering approaching him to ask the price of his painting, when he sees someone knows, wandering around the salon. At first the acquaintance does not recognize Newman, but then identifies him. He is Tom Tristam, whom he knew in St. Louis during their service in the Civil War. When Newman explains to him that he had just bought a painting, Tristam is confused, thinking that he bought one of the original works of art. He mentions that he is married with two children and has been living in Paris for six years.

Tristam, despite his assurance that he knows all about Paris, is not aware of the regulations of the Louvre concerning smoking, having been there only once (he thinks) with his wife when they first arrived in Paris. Tristam invites him to the Palais Royal, a small but elegant dining establishment nearby. Tristam asks Newman all about himself, where he is staying, etc. When Newman tells him that he is staying at the Grand Hotel, Tristam insists that he move to a smaller, more elegant hotel, where he can be waited on hand and foot by the servants. Newman insists that he likes his hotel and does not care about the “elegance” that Tristam describes.

At Tristam’s query, Newman explains that he has made “enough” money, and now he intends to rest from business, to see the world, enjoy himself, improve his mind, and find a wife. Tristam is impressed by his ambition, and asks how he managed to get to this point. Newman replies, simply, that he has worked.

In a brief narrative, the narrator reveals that, during the war, Newman had become thoroughly sick of war as a complete waste. He had been forced onto the streets as a teenager, but managed to get by. After the war, he continued to labor, going to San Francisco. Through sheer hard work he built up a fortune.

Tristam is encouraging him to join the Occidental, a club for Americans, and to play poker, but Newman insists that he did not come this far to play games. He wants to see art and hear music. Tristam says he does not dare introduce him to his wife, since both of them would then look down on him as a...

(The entire section is 920 words.)