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Author Henry James
Type of Work Novel
Genre Dark comedy; social study; stream-of-consciousness
Time and Place Written
Date of First Publication
Publisher North American Review
Narrator An unnamed voice that relates the thoughts, feelings,
actions, and observations of Lambert Strether as they occur over
the course of Strether’s visit to Europe.
Point of View The novel is narrated in the third person, following
the perspective of Lambert Strether throughout the entire book.
The narrative voice is also subjective: although it relates the
exterior actions and statements of all the characters, it relates
the complete interior and exterior life of the subject Lambert Strether.
Tone The narrator is mostly detached from the story, with
some sympathy for Strether’s plight.
Setting (Time) Early 1900s
Setting (Place) Chester and London, England; Paris, France
Protagonist Lambert Strether
Major Conflict Strether is sent to Paris to retrieve Chad Newsome,
to convince Chad to sever his ties to his European lover, and to
bring Chad home to Woollett, Massachusetts. While there, Strether
must battle his own realization that Europe may be a better setting
for Chad, and for himself.
Rising Action As Strether spends more time in Europe, he begins to
feel enlivened by its culture and observes it as having a positive
effect on Chad. He begins to doubt the virtue of sending Chad to Woollett,
where he will become a member of the provincial Massachusetts business
world and be apart from his lover, Madame de Vionnet.
Climax Strether, previously convinced of Madame de Vionnet’s
virtue, spots her with Chad in an intimate and private setting,
which forces him to question his perspective on relationships and
on Europe’s influence on the young man.
Falling Action Strether decides that even though Chad’s love affair
with Madame de Vionnet is not virtuous, it would still benefit Chad
to stay in Paris.
Themes The importance of place; the lived vs. unlived life;
the American abroad
Motifs Water; the Virgin Mary
Symbols Gardens; Paris; Woollett
Foreshadowing When Strether first arrives in Paris, Chad is absent,
but his charming and seemingly innocent friends—Bilham and Miss Barrace—have
only good things to say about his character. Neither Chad nor Bilham
ever refer to Chad’s lover by name. Waymarsh is bored by Europe,
but Strether finds Europe immediately refreshing.
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