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

Summary

Though Strether has been busy helping to entertain the Pococks, he has not neglected Miss Gostrey. He visited her after Sarah's confrontation, and the following day he describes to her his previous night's meeting with Chad and his second interview with Sarah. Strether announces that the Pococks and Waymarsh have left for Switzerland, and he adds, "Little Bilham also goes. But he of course goes for Mamie." He also reveals that Jim has been to see Madame de Vionnet "by her invitation — all alone."

Strether is somewhat evasive in the face of Maria's probings about his feelings for Madame de Vionnet and Mrs. Newsome: He says it's "of no importance that I should know" when asked if he loves Madame de Vionnet. When Maria says that she is considering a summer's leave from Paris, he says, "I want you here." Strether tells her that Sarah has promised him another delay: "They don't sail, you see, for five or six weeks." Chad has promised Sarah that he will do whatever Strether advises.

Strether describes Mrs. Newsome as being all "fine cold thought." He says she "worked the whole thing out in advance, and worked it out for me as well as for herself. Whenever she has done that, you see, there's no room left, no margin, as it were, for any alteration."

Maria raises the possibility that Madame de Vionnet and Chad may leave the city for a while, and Strether questions, "Do you mean in order to get away from me?" Maria answers, "Don't find me rude if I say I should think they'd want to." Strether changes color slightly, but continues, "you mean after what they've done to me?" "After what she has," is the flat response.

Analysis

This chapter makes it apparent to the reader that Maria is in love with Strether. Though that fact does not appear to be apparent to Strether, it is very likely that he chooses not to see it. When Maria says, "I do have you . . . from the moment you express a wish," he avoids the implication of her remark.

When he speaks of Mrs. Newsome, he speaks also of New England: "I've been, from the first moment, preoccupied with the impression everything might be making on her — quite oppressed, haunted, tormented by it. I've been interested only in her seeing what I've seen. And I've been as disappointed in her refusal to see it as she has been in what has appeared to her the perversity of my insistence."

Again and again the word "see" occurs in this novel. Strether is a man who is learning to see things for himself; he no longer needs Maria to guide him. Mrs. Newsome is described as "a moral or intellectual . . . block" which "looms" up in front of him; she would, of course, block off Strether's view. Sarah has brought the whole "block" over to him "to take or to leave."

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