The American By Henry James Summary and Analysis Chapter IV

Summary

Sometime later, Monsieur Nioche brings Christopher Newman the painting which is now completed and framed. Newman seems quite satisfied with the finished product. M. Nioche begins to complain of the difficulties of having an attractive daughter. Newman suggests that she get married, but M. Nioche explains that he doesn't have enough money for the proper dowry. Newman offers to buy six or eight more paintings from her and then she will have enough for a dowry. They then begin with the first French lesson.

On one occasion, M. Nioche expresses his fear for his daughter because his own wife had often deceived him. Newman decides that Madamoiselle Noémie should marry immediately and plans to meet her the next day at the Louvre in order to tell her what pictures he wants. M. Nioche is very embarrassed, but asks Newman to "respect the innocence of Mademoiselle Nioche." Newman finds this amusing, but assures the father he has nothing to worry about.

The next day he meets Mademoiselle Nioche and they walk through the Louvre with Newman pointing out the pictures he would like copies of. She tries to persuade him not to order certain pictures, and after he has completed his order, she calls him stupid and ignorant because he doesn't realize that her ability is not good enough to reproduce all the masterpieces he has ordered. She then confesses that she has no talent at all, but Newman says he is satisfied, and he suspects Mademoiselle of some ulterior motives in making the confession to him.

Newman finally asks her what she can do. She tells him that she has no talent for anything. He wonders why she continues then to deceive her father, but Mademoiselle Noémie affirms that her father knows that she has no real talent, however Newman is equally sure that her father believes in her. When she maintains that she can do nothing, Newman reminds her of his offer to buy a number of paintings, but Mademoiselle Noémie informs him that for a dowry of twelve thousand francs, she could do no better than marry a butcher or a grocer. He advises her not to be too fastidious and leaves her. As he goes, he realizes that Monsieur Nioche was correct when he feared that his daughter was a "frank coquette."

Analysis

During the course of the novel, Newman must learn. His encounters with the Nioches provide him an opportunity to learn something about the "shabby-genteel" life of the Parisian. During this chapter, he comes to one realization — that Mademoiselle Noémie is a "frank coquette." The reader should note that Newman thinks the father is honest and is deeply concerned over his daughter's morals. Later, he argues with Valentin about Monsieur Nioche's honesty and ignorance of his daughter's true nature. But we must remember that Newman is still the innocent American and has not yet acquired the experience necessary to evaluate the more subtle aspects of European natures.

Newman's desire to see Mademoiselle Noémie married parallels his own fate. At the end of the novel, he will meet her again in Europe and both will still be unmarried.

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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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