While reading through The Ambassadors I can’t help but to notice a recurring theme from both “The Pupil” and “The Real Thing”. Henry James’ protagonist seems to be a lost individual from what I can gather based on his movements (mentally, physically, and emotionally) in Paris. Strether’s instability causes him to be guilty of what Henry James’ previous characters were also guilty of. In the story “The Real Thing” Mrs. Monarch was unable to see the “big picture” because she didn’t take the time out to examine all the qualities required in being the “real thing”, but rather made judgements based on a partial truth. Here in The Ambassadors Strether is taking what Mrs. Newsome and Sarah Pocock says as being the truth when they refer to Chad’s lover as being a “bad” woman. It is not until he meets Madame de Vionnet for himself that he understands that she is not the monster that she was made out to be. Instead of corrupting Chad as Mrs. Newsome and Sarah declares, she has altered him into becoming a gentleman.

Henry James states in his piece called “The Art of Fiction” that “The essence of moral energy is to survey the whole field…” (p392) In my opinion he is making reference to the fact that in order to find truth, especially when it comes to novels, one must explore the parts of the text to understand the essence. For Strether, he had to meet Madame for his self. The presumption that Madame de Vionnet was a bad woman was not the only false judgement that Strether made throughout the text. He also assumed on page 136, when he was speaking to Miss Gostrey, that Chad had to be in love with the young de Vionnet because theĀ a was still married. He later found out that although she is still married she has been separated from her husband because “Monsieur de Vionnet had been a brute.” (p137) We find Strether making assumptions again when he believed that Sarah Pocock’s smile signified that Mrs. Newsome was still interested in him.I am also guilty of this act because when introduced to Billham, I assumed that since he said that the relationship between Chad and Madame was a virtuous one, he himself was the lover that was keeping Chad from returning to America. My assumption was of course proven to be fallacious. I guess what I am trying to say is that it seems as though James is trying to prove that “the novel seems… the most magnificent form of art.” (Tales of Henry James, p390) He wants readers to be aware that there is truth hidden in the novel, and often when one presupposes their assumptions are inaccurate. To capture the “true” essence, one must survey the whole rather than taking a part and assuming it covers the whole story.

2 Responses to “”

  1.   Dominique Says:

    What a lovely way to conclude our discussion of James’s work, Samantha! Thank you.


  2.   Priest Says:

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