“It is not a matter of advising you not to go,” Strether said, “but of absolutely preventing you, if possible, from so much as thinking of it. Let me accordingly appeal to you by all you hold sacred.”
Strether passionately speaks these words to Chad during their final conversation of the novel, in Book Twelfth. Strether has spoken no firmer or more direct words since his speech to Bilham during Gloriani’s garden party. Strether’s final appeal to Chad demonstrates his tremendous growth as a person: At the start of the novel, Strether arrived in Paris to convince Chad to return to Massachusetts. At the end of the novel, Strether implores Chad to stay in Paris. In that early conversation, Strether spoke with a certain reservation and questioned his own conviction. He blindly acted as ambassador because Mrs. Newsome had asked him to do so. Now, Stether stands behind his words with significant resolution, even though he knows that Chad will probably not follow his directions. Just as these firm words show a growth of character in Strether when he speaks them, they expose a contrasting weakness of character in Chad. At this late stage in the novel, Strether has lost faith in Chad. He no longer idealizes the young man and instead worries that he is callous and noncommittal to a fault. Evidence suggests that Strether is correct.
This quotation shows yet another contrast between European and American culture. Strether calls upon everything Chad holds “sacred” to urge him to stay, but Strether realizes that Chad holds sacred just his own livelihood and self-gain. Chad has no honor, no sense of loyalty, and no real passion for either Europe or Madame de Vionnet. He represents an immature American culture, which worships the dollar over all else. Strether firmly believes that if Chad stays in Paris, his exposure to Madame de Vionnet will continue and as a result Chad will continue to grow in refinement, a hallmark of European culture. But he has also begun to realize that Chad cares little for the kind of abstract growth. During their last conversation, Chad indicates a strong interest in advertising and in learning the mechanics of running his family’s business. Chad has already lost interest in what Europe can give him. He has now turned his attention to the financial excitement awaiting him in the United States, under his mother’s control in Woollett. In the end, Strether realizes that because Chad lacks “imagination,” these materialistic interests will lure him away from the things Strether thinks are more important: inner growth and cultural development, which are only available to Chad in Europe.