The American By Henry James Summary and Analysis Chapter XI

Summary

One day M. Nioche came to renew his visits with Newman. He expressed his great concern over Mademoiselle Noémie's actions, and Newman promises to look in on her at the Louvre the next day.

While wandering through the Louvre in search of Mademoiselle Noémie, Newman met Valentin who was there to conduct some dull English cousins through the most interesting parts of the museum, but they are late and at Newman's insistence, he joins him in the search for Mademoiselle Noémie.

When they find her, Newman wonders why she hasn't persevered and completed part of his order. She reminds him that she has no talent, and turns to Valentin to vouch for her that she cannot paint. Valentin advises her to give it up and try something else. After more polite conversation, M. Nioche comes to fetch his daughter. After they leave, Valentin admits that the Mademoiselle is very interesting and very attractive. Newman tells him that she is "a sad little adventuress" but Valentin thinks she is a great one. He realizes that "she has not as much heart as will go on the point of a needle," but this is an immense virtue.

Newman says he is not much concerned with the young lady, but he is worried about the father, but Valentin points out that the father is not worth the consideration. Newman maintains that M. Nioche is poor, but very high-toned and Newman is afraid that he will do harm to his daughter or to himself rather than suffer shame or disgrace. Again, Valentin gives a summary of the old man and tells Newman that he will survive and will probably end up living off his daughter's "ill-gotten" gains. Newman reminds Valentin that he is a cynic and that the only two virtuous men in Paris are himself and M. Nioche. If

M. Nioche "turns out a humbug," then Newman will wash his hands of the entire affair. At this time, Valentin's English cousin shows up and he must leave with her.

Analysis

While many people think the episodes involving M. Nioche and his daughter are extraneous to the main action, these events are very central to Newman's development. First, he must learn about all aspects of European society before he can become the perfect American. From this couple, he learns gradually about duplicity. This is a part of his education. Until now, he has not possessed the ability or the exceptional sensitivity to detect all types of motivations. Valentin points out that M. Nioche is not so high-toned as Newman thinks the old man to be, but Newman now maintains strongly that he is right. This is again James' method of contrasting the European's experience as against the American's innocence. It will later be seen that Newman is wrong and has been deceived all the time. This is a part of Newman's education. These are things about which he must learn if he is to associate with people like the Bellegardes. Furthermore, there is an implied contrast between Mademoiselle Noémie and Madame de Cintré, and from this point on, there will be the double love affair. One will be between Newman and Madame de Cintré on a rather high-toned plane, and the other will be between Valentin and Mademoiselle Noémie on a rather low level. Thus, in this chapter we have the introductions which begin this contrasting of love affairs, and the establishment of the rationale which will allow Valentin to be later killed in a duel.

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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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