The American By Henry James Summary and Analysis Chapter XXIII

Summary

Newman returned to Paris in order to plan and nurse his revenge. He walked to Madame de Bellegarde's and inquired if the lady had returned. He was disgusted to think that she would not receive him and he might have to resort to writing a letter. He returned home feeling rather tired. He began to think that nursing a vengeance was rather tiring.

While he was resting, Mrs. Bread was shown in. She tells Newman that she is all packed, and is anxious to get everything over with. She tells Newman that Madame and Urbain de Bellegarde have tried to see Madame de Cintré and could not. She describes the life of the Carmelite nun as something terrible. They wear coarse old clothes, sleep on the ground, and have no heat. It is the strictest of all the orders of the nuns. She tells him the name of the house which Madame de Cintré entered, and he plans to go some Sunday to hear the nuns even though one cannot see them. Newman sends Mrs. Bread off to select a room for herself, but she comes back saying that all of them are too nice for her.

The next day, she reports the difficulties she had in leaving the Bellegardes. She had sent her trunk down and had ordered a cab before she told Madame de Bellegarde. When Mrs. Bread told her that she was going to Mr. Newman, Madame de Bellegarde turned red and ordered Mrs. Bread to leave immediately, but she sent word down to the porter not to let Mrs. Bread out the gate. Mrs. Bread bullied the porter into opening the gate, however. Newman is excited because he now realizes that the old Madame de Bellegarde is frightened.

Later, he goes to see Mrs. Tristram who tells him that he is not himself. He asks her to do him a great favor. She is to go to some Abbé and get him permission to attend a service in the nunnery where Madame de Cintré is. Two days later he received the permission.

Analysis

Notice the fluctuation in this chapter between a strong desire for revenge and pure melancholy. During the first part of the chapter, we have a hint that Newman will not be able to harbor his revenge for a long time. Already it is too exhausting.

When Mrs. Bread arrives and begins to tell about the nunnery, Newman's desire for revenge fades and is replaced by a strong sense of sadness and melancholy. But on her second arrival when she narrates how she left the Bellegarde house, Newman suddenly realizes, from her report, that Madame de Bellegarde is disturbed and frightened. He moves back now to his desire for revenge.

This shift is represented in the last scene by Mrs. Tristram's remarks that Newman is strange and incoherent.

Early in the novel, Newman had thought the gilded rooms were magnificent. Now he says to Mrs. Bread that it is just so much tinsel and it will "all peel off of itself." Thus, Newman has been disillusioned about gilded rooms and the tinsel concept of honor found among the Bellegardes. He has, indeed, learned a great deal since his arrival in Europe.

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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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