The Ambassadors By Henry James Summary and Analysis Book 8: Chapter II

Summary

As Chad leaves the station with Sarah, Mamie Pocock, and the maid, Strether and Jim Pocock depart together in a cab. Strether, buoyed by a smile from Sarah which he interprets as a sign that he "was then as much as ever the valued friend of her family," assesses each of the new arrivals. Even with her apparent good will, Sarah is a threatening figure. He is struck by her resemblance to her mother, but though he had never known Mrs. Newsome to be unpleasant, he had known Sarah to be so. Even when pleasant, she "had forms of affability that were in a high degree assertive." Mamie, Jim's pretty sister of twenty-two years, makes Strether think again of the possibility that Jeanne de Vionnet might be in love with Chad, and Mamie becomes "the symbol of opposition."

Jim Pocock is a typical Woollett businessman who "would have been practically indistinguishable hadn't his constant preference for light-grey clothes, for white hats, for very big cigars and very little stories, done what it could for his identity." Jim has come for a good time and intends to leave the business of their trip to his wife, Sarah. He even goes so far as to say, in relation to Chad's returning to Woollett to take over the advertising for the family firm, "Well, hanged if I would if I were he!" Strether hopes for some indication from the Pococks that they notice the change in Chad, but none of them, not even Jim, gives it. Strether is discouraged: "It was what he had taken his own stand on, so far as he had taken a stand; and if they were all going to see nothing he had only wasted his time." Determined to find out what Mrs. Newsome's attitude is, Strether asks Jim if she has at all "given way" and is taken aback somewhat when Jim tells him not to go back to Woollett because Mrs. Newsome is "sitting up" for him "all night."

Analysis

So far we have seen Mrs. Newsome and Sarah mainly through Strether's thoughts and conversation. Jim Pocock's jocular comments are revealing. When Strether, obviously relieved, remarks that Sarah "isn't fierce," Jim replies, "Oh, don't you know her well enough . . . to have noticed she never gives herself away, any more than her mother ever does? . . . They're about as intense as they can live."

So it is that Strether is quite mistaken when he takes Sarah's smile to mean that his position in the family's favor is still relatively secure.

Strether's question to Jim Pocock, "And Mrs. Newsome's sitting up?" asks if she is still intent on following through her original plans in relation to Chad and, of course, to Strether as well. Jim, however, misses the subtlety of the query and replies crudely, "All night, my boy — for you!"

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