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The American

Henry James

Chapter 3

Chapters 1–2

Chapter 3, page 2

page 1 of 2
Summary

The following night, Newman dines at the Tristrams' posh apartment in the Avenue d'Iéna, near the Arc de Triomphe. He hits it off immediately with Mrs. Tristram, who is a clever, interesting, and intelligent woman despite being married to the boorish Tom.

Newman dines with the Tristrams often over the following weeks. The bored Mrs. Tristram is delighted to take Newman on as a project and floods him with suggestions and advice. Though Newman forgets most of this advice, he enjoys the woman's company in an honest, straightforward way. Meanwhile, Newman comes to see Tom as "idle, spiritless, sensual, snobbish." Tom wants only to smoke at the Occidental Club and to badmouth the United States at every opportunity. Newman knows the Tristrams are mismatched and it pains him to see them together.

After dinner, as Tom typically goes to the Club, Newman often stays at the apartment to talk with Mrs. Tristram. On one such occasion, Mrs. Tristram asks Newman bluntly whether he has ever really loved anyone. He says no but admits that after years of hard work he has recently been feeling an inexplicable desire to settle down, stretch out, and haul in.

"Bravo!" Mrs. Tristram cried; "that's what I want to hear you say. You're the great Western Barbarian, stepping forth in his innocence and might, gazing a while at this poor corrupt old world and then swooping down on it."

... "I have the instincts—have them deeply—if I haven't the forms of a high old civilisation," Newman [replied]. "I stick to that. If you don't believe it I should like to prove it to you."

Charmed by Newman's admission, Mrs. Tristram accepts his challenge and puts him to the test, telling him he flatters her latent patriotism by what he unconsciously represents. She apologizes for having given him social advice, exhorting him simply to be true to himself.

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