The American By Henry James Character Analysis Valentin de Bellegarde

Even though Valentin is a European, he does possess many of the qualities and attributes associated with the American. As seen in his duel, he is truly European. His sense of honor, his sense of form and ceremony demand that he perform the duel. Even though Newman tries logically to reason with him, it is impossible to make Valentin retract. At the duel, he follows through as the perfect aristocrat would — he shoots off the mark intentionally. Valentin's European qualities are also seen in his dilemma created by his being a younger brother of a famous family. The honor of the family requires him to do nothing with his life. He feels that he cannot go into business and feels that there is nothing for him finally to do but go to a monastery. He is bound by the laws of the aristocracy and family.

He does possess other qualities, however. He responds to life and to people with frankness and spontaneity. He is quite natural in all of his relations with people. When necessary he is able to drop the forms and rituals and act as a natural man. These are the qualities which attract him to Newman and vice versa.

Early in the novel, it was reported that if the test ever presented itself, the Bellegarde honor would be safer in Valentin's hands than in anyone else's. During the course of the novel, this proves to be true. He is thoroughly ashamed of the way the Bellegarde family has acted, so ashamed that he apologized and offers Newman the chance to revenge himself. Thus, it is seen that Valentin is the European aristocrat who possesses a high sense of honor and integrity.

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At the ball, who tries to point out some things to Newman, when he fails to realize them on his own?




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