Summary and Analysis
The next day, Newman goes to see Madame de Cintré. He must wait a long time before she comes in, but when she arrives, Newman is pleased to have her alone. He asks her if Valentin has spoken to her, and she says that Valentin has spoken quite well of him. Newman explains his position and tells her of his admiration for her and of his desire to make her his wife. She answers him that she has decided not to marry again. Newman requests her to see him more and not to reject him now — to think it over and wait before she refuses him. Madame de Cintré admits that she has not asked him to leave the house and never return. Newman emphasizes that Madame de Cintré is the type of person who needs to be perfectly free and, in marrying him, she would be perfectly free. Madame de Cintré paused for a while and then admitted that Newman's comments had pleased her, but she asks him to say nothing more about the subject for six months. Newman is only too glad to promise.
A few hours later, he meets Valentin and tells him about the offer, and that Madame de Cintré did not accept the proposal, however, the fact that she is to continue to see him is, according to Valentin, a great "personal success" for Newman. He decides that he must present Newman to Urbain de Bellegarde immediately.
In terms of a story of romance, many readers will view the proposal as rather quiet and unromantic, but with the nature of the characters, it could be no other way. We must remember that James is more interested in character, motivation, and states of mind than in exciting physical adventure.
As Newman is waiting for Madame de Cintré, he "wondered where, in so exquisite a compound, nature and art showed their dividing line. Where did the special intention separate from the habit of good manners?
Where did urbanity end and sincerity begin?" These questions are, of course, central to the entire novel. Newman possesses natural goodness, sincerity, and good intentions, but he has not yet developed urbanity and art, that is, art in the form of observing the rituals and ceremonies so necessary in a formalized European society. Thus, we must begin to wonder how much of a combination of these qualities does Madame de Cintré possess. According to Valentin's description of her, she is the perfect combination of these opposing qualities.