Study Guide

The American Plot Analysis

By Henry James

Plot Analysis

Exposition (Initial Situation)

On a Lark in the Louvre

Christopher Newman is just moseying around the Louvre, trying to see if he can find a French wife. Instead, he finds a pretty picture-copying hustler named Noémie and runs into his old pal Tom Tristram: two people who will introduce him to the upper class and the seedy underbelly of Paris.


Marching Towards Marriage

Newman falls fast and hard for Claire de Cintre, a beautiful widow with a hard-to-please family. Even though her brother, Valentin, promises to help, Newman can't quite convince Claire to marry him.


Lord Deepmere Is All Up In Here

Although Newman manages to get Claire to accept his proposal, he can't shake the feeling that the Bellegarde family is plotting something shady. When Lord Deepmere, a rich and doltish cousin, shows up at the engagement party, Newman suspects Claire's mom and brother (Urbain) are pulling a fast one on him.

Climax (Crisis, Turning Point)

Jilted and Dueled

In quick succession, Claire rejects Newman and Valentin gets himself entangled in a duel over Noémie. Newman isn't quite sure which way to turn—Claire seems distraught and Valentin is dying in Switzerland.

Falling Action

From Businessman to Blackmailer

With the help of the trusty Mrs. Bread, Newman comes across a piece of information that could put the Bellegarde family in a compromising position. He hopes to either use the family secret to get the Bellegardes on his side, or just convince Claire that love is all she needs. Good luck with that, Newman.

Resolution (Denoument)

Up in Smoke

Newman realizes that Claire's lost to him forever. He hightails it to London for a while, where he catches Noémie hobnobbing with a besotted Lord Deepmere. Newman heads back to France and burns the letter. He's not going to stoop that low.

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