The American By Henry James Summary and Analysis Chapter XV

Summary

Valentin gives Newman some more information about Mademoiselle Noémie. Newman found it disgusting to find he was wrong about M. Nioche, but he determined to seek him out one more time and find out for himself. He went to M. Nioche's address and was told that the old man was at a nearby café. Newman finds him drinking coffee with Mademoiselle Noémie.

Mademoiselle Noémie tells Newman that she has discovered that Valentin de Bellegarde has been making inquiries about her and tries to get Newman to take him a message, but Newman refuses to carry any messages. She reproaches Newman for their earlier relationship saying that he was not "gallant." When Mademoiselle Noémie leaves, M. Nioche feels uncomfortable and tries to say that he meant his earlier protests at the time he made them, but now he just takes what she gives him. But, he maintains, he still hates it and can't forgive her for what she is doing.

The next time he sees Valentin, he admits that Valentin had judged the old man correctly, but still Newman is disappointed. Valentin, however, is very unhappy. He has formed a ridiculous infatuation for Mademoiselle Noémie even though he knows that she is not worth his attention. But she is, he says, charming and bewitching.

Analysis

Newman and Mademoiselle Noémie are both learning fast, but their objectives are quite different. Newman now learns that he was deceived in his opinions of both Mademoiselle Noémie and more important in his view of the old man. Thus Newman is learning something about deception.

Early in the novel, Mrs. Tristram had said that in six months she would see Newman in a fine fury of anger. Mademoiselle Noémie tells him that "It is something, at any rate, to have made you angry." Thus the one thing that can make Newman angry has now been discovered, that is, deception and especially deception in human relationships. Consequently, if he can be angry at being deceived in the relatively unimportant things like his relations with M. Nioche, then his anger must be tremendous when he is deceived by the Bellegardes.

The contrast between the noble love Newman feels for Madame de Cintré and the rather tawdry affair Valentin is having with Mademoiselle Noémie shows the difference between Newman's aims in life and those of Valentin. Even Valentin admits that his affair is a "striking contrast to your noble and virtuous attachment — a vile contrast."

Back to Top

Take the Quiz

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




Quiz