Strether meets Maria Gostrey in the first chapter of the novel, and she appoints herself as his "guide" to Europe. We soon find she is very much his guide (and the reader's), as after each vital occurrence in the novel, Strether goes to her and they discuss the incident. Through Maria, we receive many valuable insights and understandings: "She pigeon-holed her fellow mortals with a hand as free as that of a compositor scattering type." Maria is an American widow of about thirty-five, and we are given to believe that she and Strether resemble each other in looks: "each so finely brown and so sharply spare, each confessing so to dents of surface and aids to sight, to a disproportionate nose and a head delicately or grossly grizzled, they might have been brother and sister." Maria is in love with Lambert Strether, and though she makes an attempt to convince him to stay with her, she understands why he must return to Woollett.