The Ambassadors By Henry James Summary and Analysis Book 9: Chapter II

Summary

Sarah, her first week in Paris almost over, has been treating Strether "with a civil consistency of chill." Strether does not know what to fully make of this development, and finding no relief in his "crowded empty expensive" days, he calls on Maria Gostrey. Because Maria is not directly involved with the current situation, Strether takes it upon himself to inform her of what is taking place. Sarah, he tells her, keeps company with Waymarsh; they are playing at being in love. Chad entertains Mamie (who no longer expects to get hold of him), and Jim is almost always alone.

Maria changes the direction of their talk by announcing to Strether that Jeanne de Vionnet is engaged to marry Monsieur de Montbron. Strether, surprised to learn that the news is out, confesses that he already knows of the planned marriage though Chad has not yet told him anything of his part in bringing the engagement about. He feels that even though Chad's action in this matter further exposes the young man's relationship with Madame de Vionnet, "The act is his answer to Mrs. Newsome's demonstration." Chad will not directly stand his ground with Sarah. "No — he'll leave it to me, he'll leave everything to me. I shall be used for it — !"

Analysis

This short chapter reveals that Strether believes Jeanne's marriage arrangements will let Sarah know that Chad's relationship is with Madame de Vionnet and not with her daughter, as well as providing Madame de Vionnet with a "sign," a "measure of his attachment." Admitting that they are being "lurid," Strether and Maria speculate that perhaps Chad has brought about Jeanne's engagement as "a concession to [Madame de Vionnet's] jealousy." Strether thinks that it must have occurred to Chad that it would have been "nicer" to have cared for Jeanne. But "he couldn't care in that way. He is tied up to Marie." (Note: Marie de Vionnet should not be confused with Maria Gostrey.)

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