Romantic tragedy; travelogue; regional novel; novel of nineteenth-century aristocratic French society; cross-cultural encounter


The narrator is objective and detached, with occasional bursts of omniscience

Point Of View

The narrator speaks in the third person, objectively describing the actions and thoughts of Christopher Newman. The narrator has no access to scenes that Newman does not witness, but often looks more carefully and candidly than Newman at the scenes that transpire. With exceptions, Newman's thoughts and motives escape the narrator.


The narrator's tone is delicate, detached, discreet and erudite. The narrator speaks of Newman as of a close friend, whose thoughts and motives may be reliably but never completely guessed. The narrator is evidently quite worldly, speaking with a sophistication and depth well beyond Newman's own.




Christopher Newman, an American visiting Paris

Major Conflict

Newman, in search of the perfect wife to complete his fortune, wants to marry the beautiful aristocrat Claire de Cintré, but her domineering mother and older brother cannot reconcile themselves to the prospect of accepting a nouveaux-riches American businessman into their family

Rising Action

Newman's arrival in Paris; Mrs. Tristram's suggestion that Newman meet Claire; Valentin's endorsement of Newman's cause; Newman's declaration of love to Claire; the Marquise and Urbain's agreement to allow Newman to woo Claire; Claire's acceptance of Newman's hand; the arrival of Lord Deepmere; the Bellegardes' ball; Valentin's departure for a duel


Claire's renunciation of her engagement to Newman under pressure from her mother and brother

Falling Action

Valentin's death; Claire's flight to the nunnery; Newman's discovery of the Bellegarde family secret; Newman's confrontation of the Bellegardes; Newman's trip abroad; Newman's visit to the nunnery; Newman's decision to renounce revenge


Newman's story of his failed business revenge, related to Tom Tristram at the novel's beginning; Valentin's offer to show Newman the house and his claim that he will get his own fun out of Newman's courtship; the opera Don Giovanni; Mrs. Tristram's report of Claire weeping during confession; the agitated scene between Lord Deepmere and Madame de Bellegarde at the Bellegarde ball, and later between Lord Deepmere and Claire; Newman's comparison of Noémie to the young Marquise de Bellegarde; Newman's sudden rush down the hill at Valentin's funeral.