The Ambassadors by Henry James

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The Ambassadors

Henry James

Author I geb. 1843 (US) t 1916 (England) First issue l 1903 Publisher I Methuen & Co. (London) Oorspr. title I The Ambassadors (untert.)

Henry James considered this work to be his best novel and the book is certainly one of his greatest artistic achievements. With the figure of Lambert Strether, a middle-aged New Englander confronted with the temptations of Paris, James brings his style of narrative perspective to perfection in the first person. Strether is sent to Europe by his fiancĂ©e, the dreaded Madame Newsome, with the task of rescuing her son from a relationship which, it is believed, infected him with European moral laxity. Upon arrival, Strether discovers a much more complex issue, which leads him to re-evaluate both American and European culture. Although he fails as an ambassador, he gets to know the strengths and weaknesses of Europe and America better. He soon accepted that Chad’s relationship with the beautiful Marie de Vionnet was actually a virtuous one. Across the board, The Ambassadors is a tragic book: the most sensitive characters are largely victims of seemingly inescapable social precepts. James excels with The Ambassadors in portraying characters who are aware of the loss of their youth and the connection with the ‘pace’ of the world. In Strether’s figure, he has developed a character who appears to be able to determine his own fate, even if it is not a triumphant fate.