The Ambassadors By Henry James Summary and Analysis Book 11: Chapter I

Summary

Strether goes to Chad's apartment and, finding him not in, moves to the balcony where he had first seen Little Bilham looking out over Paris. While waiting for Chad, Strether reflects on his own lost youth — it is "an hour full of strange suggestions, persuasions, recognitions; one of those that he was to recall, at the end of his adventure, as the particular handful that most had counted." When Chad arrives, Strether finds that they are able to talk more freely and closely than ever before. He muses that "it was in truth essentially by bringing down his personal life to a function all subsidiary to the young man's own that he held together."

Both Chad and Strether recognize that they stand little chance of making Sarah understand their positions. Strether reflects that "there never was the smallest chance . . . that they would have it for a moment." He tells Chad that in the end, it was himself they had come for, not Chad. This reminds Chad that Strether has his own predicament, and he urges him to weigh everything carefully before he gives up a possible return to Woollett. He suggests that Strether is possibly giving up a "good deal of money" by not returning. Chad feels that his family "hates" him and that were he to return to Woollett, it would be a triumph for both Sarah and Mrs. Newsome. Strether suggests that it is not Chad they hate, but Madame de Vionnet.

Strether decides that he must see Sarah again. Because Chad does not understand what such a visit would produce, Strether accuses him of having no imagination. Chad questions, "But haven't you yourself rather too much?"

Analysis

In preparing The Ambassadors for serial publication, James was required to make extensive cuts in the manuscript; that he chose to cut particularly those chapters dealing with Strether and Chad together (this chapter, for example) seems to indicate that James considered Strether's relationship with Madame de Vionnet more central to the novel than Strether's relationship with Chad. (An indirect result of James' revisions was the accidental reversing of Chapters I and II of Book XI, an error which went undetected for almost fifty years.)

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