The American By Henry James Summary and Analysis Chapter XXI

Summary

Newman walks for a long time after the interview with Madame de Cintré. He cannot yet bring himself to give her up. He still thinks that if mother and son would drop their victim, she would still come back to him. He decides to have one more interview with Madame and Urbain de Bellegarde.

As he enters the chateau, he is met by Mrs. Bread who sympathizes with him. She tells him that Madame de Cintré left that morning for the nunnery and that she had only told her mother the night before. The Bellegardes are taking it rather hard. She asks for some last news of Valentin, and Newman asks her to meet him that night and he will tell her Valentin's last words.

When Newman meets the Bellegardes, he asks them to repeal their order because becoming a Carmelite nun is worse than marrying a commercial person. They refuse. Newman wonders if anything will force them. He tells them of Valentin's last words and his apology for the family. They refuse to believe it, and Newman warns them that he knows something about a crime. They refuse to talk to Newman any longer and send word by letter that they are leaving to confirm Madame de Cintré's desire to become a nun. That night he goes to meet Mrs. Bread at the appointed place.

Analysis

Newman is consumed with the idea of revenge in this chapter. Here he is not seen as the noble person he so often appears to be. He reviews his case and decides that if he is objected to because of his commercial nature, then they have failed to take into considerations how far a commercial person can go in achieving revenge. But perhaps more important, Newman wants revenge for Claire de Cintré. He is convinced that the Bellegardes have used some kind of force on her. The reader should note that James never allows the reader to know what kind of specific force they used, but has left it to the reader's imagination. This is the same technique he often uses. We have never known exactly how rich Newman is, only that he is extremely rich. In other novels, James will have a person ill, but will never name the exact nature of the illness. This technique allows the reader's imagination to roam and makes the unsaid more important than the specific detail.

At this point in his desire for revenge, Newman still thinks that he can achieve his goal — the hand of Madame de Cintré. What he fails to note is that Madame de Cintré would probably not return to him now even if her mother were to release her.

The Bellegardes are, however, the true aristocrats. They are indeed shaken and frightened by Newman's utterings, but they still refuse to give in to him. Newman must go further before he can have his perfect revenge. But he has made them feel him.

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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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