The American By Henry James Summary and Analysis Chapter XIV

Summary

Newman has kept his promise and said nothing for six months to Madame de Cintré, but now the time of waiting is over. He now speaks and tells Madame de Cintré that she is everything that he desires and more. She tells him that she liked him six months ago and even more today, but she reminds him that she is cold and "a coward." She continues by adding that she does not care for a brilliant, worldly life, but concludes that she thinks she could be happy with Newman because he is so different from anyone she has ever known.

Newman returns the next day and is met by Mrs. Bread. She tells him that nothing has been said, but she knows that he has been accepted. She reminds him to marry quickly and take Madame de Cintré away. She is still afraid.

When Newman meets Madame de Cintré, she tells him that she has not told her mother. Madame de Bellegarde is annoyed that she hasn't been told and asks that the marquis be sent for immediately. The marquis arrives and stiffly and formally congratulates Newman. Newman mentions that he is so happy he would like to shout the news from the rooftops, but Madame de Bellegarde is horrified at even the idea. Newman tells how he has already sent telegrams to America, and she assures him that her friends will not receive the news by telegram.

Valentin congratulates them, and wishes them happiness, but says that he adores someone he can't marry.

As Newman is about to leave, he says privately to Madame de Cintré that her family is not pleased. She is sorry about it but promises it will not become an issue between them.

When Newman next sees Mrs. Tristram, he tells about the telegrams he had received from America and how he had deliberately shown them to the Bellegardes "wanting for once to make the heads of the house of Bellegarde feel him." He tells of a party he plans to give in his "great gilded rooms." Mrs. Tristram finds this idea odious and delicious.

When he told Madame de Bellegarde of his plans, she turned pale and immediately told Newman that the Bellegardes must give a party first. As he was leaving, Valentin went with Newman and explained that his mother conceived the idea of the party on the spur of the moment so as to escape his party, but Newman is not bothered by this news.

Analysis

The reader should notice that James' method of handling the proposal scene differs from that of the average novelist. The scene is not filled with romantic sayings and happiness. Instead, there is a sense of almost fear. Madame de Cintré even mentions again that she is a coward. This repetition (she had said essentially the same thing in Chapter XII) begins to prepare the reader for Madame de Cintré's acquiescence to her mother's demands in Chapter XVIII. It is often by little remarks that James prepares the reader for some later action.

The proposal scene is followed immediately by an encounter with Mrs. Bread who adds an ominous note to the situation. Thus, to the careful reader, there are plenty of hints that things are not going as smoothly as Newman thinks they are.

Now that Newman is accepted by Madame de Cintré, he seems to explode. Or perhaps, more accurately, he seems to be less cautious than earlier. He is not disturbed that his telegrams to America are in bad form according to the Bellegardes, and he even delights in showing them the many responses he received. In his good nature, he is not even offended that his party was rejected in favor of one to be given by the Bellegardes. But we see that Newman is intent upon making "the heads of the house of Bellegarde feel him." This desire should be remembered in the light of what Newman could have done with revenge in a later chapter.

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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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