Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Europe. Europe represents culture and sophistication, but also mystery and corruption. Christopher Newman (the “American” of the title), a self-made American millionaire educated in the school of hard knocks, comes to Europe to complete his cultural education and perhaps to find a wife. He visits hundreds of notable churches and a host of museums and palaces. Though he seldom fully understands the great works of art and architecture that he sees, he is willing to concede their worth. Likewise, he never fully understands the members of the aristocratic Bellegarde family or their French Catholic society; in the end, they defeat him.


*Louvre. Famous Parisian art museum that occupies a former royal palace. Henry James uses the museum to display the lack of cultural sophistication of Newman and his American acquaintance, Tom Tristram. Newman prefers badly painted copies of a pretty aspiring artist to the priceless originals, and Tom Tristram, visiting the Louvre for the first time though he has lived for six years in Paris, wonders aloud if the paintings on the walls are originals or copies.

Tristram home

Tristram home. House in a quarter of Paris that is relatively new during the 1860’s—the period in which the novel is set. Like the French aristocrats’ gray stone mansions in the Faubourg St. Germain, the newer houses in the Tristrams’ neighborhood have pompous white facades, though as yet unweathered. Inside, the modernity and hospitality of the Tristrams’ house contrast sharply with the Bellegardes’ two-hundred-year-old...

(The entire section is 665 words.)