The Ambassadors

by: Henry James

Miss Maria Gostrey

Henry James describes the character of Miss Gostrey as the “reader’s friend” in the preface to the New York edition of The Ambassadors. In the plot of the novel, of course, she is Strether’s friend. Her unique role as confidant helps Strether to confront and analyze his experiences after the events have already occurred and his first impressions have already been solidified. Readers too must decode and analyze Strether’s experiences to derive meaning from The Ambassadors. Helping Strether do this work also lets Miss Gostrey help the reader confront and analyze. In this way, Miss Gostrey offers invaluable help to both Strether and the reader. When Strether first arrives in Paris, Miss Gostrey clarifies his confusion about Chad’s world and teaches him to overcome his American bias. Likewise, she sees through the complexities of each situation and distills it down to an explicit analysis that both Strether and the reader can easily digest. Later, as Strether gains a better grasp of Europe, Miss Gostrey serves as a sounding board for his new ideas. Her presence allows the reader to revisit each episode of the novel and, as a consequence, to take note of Strether’s changing personality. Therefore, Miss Gostrey is both a central character and an essential narrative tool in The Ambassadors.


More Help

From the SparkNotes Blog