The Ambassadors By Henry James Summary and Analysis Book 10: Chapter III

Summary

When Sarah and Strether meet, he remarks how much good she has done for Waymarsh, but Sarah has not come to discuss Waymarsh. The object of her visit soon becomes clear: "She had come to receive his [Strether's] submission, and Waymarsh was to have made it plain to him that she would expect nothing less. . . . The form of his submission was to be an engagement to acquit himself within the twenty-four hours." From the structure and tone of the conversation, Strether realizes that Sarah has talked with Chad, and she finally admits that Chad has assured her he will leave Paris when Strether gives him "the word." Strether will not commit himself at this time, for he feels he must first confer with Chad.

Sarah attacks Strether's loyalties and accuses him of defending Madame de Vionnet's "outrageous conduct"; she further insinuates that Madame de Vionnet is indecent. Strether realizes that Sarah has not seen any of the beneficial changes that have taken place in Chad — the changes he has witnessed. Sarah leaves the room angry, and Strether thinks that there is little hope for a viable reconciliation: "The way he had put it to himself was that all quite might be at an end."

Analysis

After all his speculations about Sarah and the extent to which she may have been influenced by her experiences since her arrival (Paris generally and Madame de Vionnet in particular), Strether at last has the opportunity to gauge these influences. To his dismay, Sarah is unimpressed and undetracted from the object of her mission: She refuses to admit that Chad has been changed for the better by his European involvement, she considers Madame de Vionnet to be an indecent woman, and she consequently demands Strether's submission to the will of Woollett. In this sense, Sarah represents not only Mrs. New-some but all that Mrs. Newsome in turn represents: the principles, attitudes, and pieties of Woollett, Massachusetts.

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