Study Guide

M. Nioche in The American

By Henry James

M. Nioche

A Pathetic Figure

M. Nioche isn't exactly the most fortunate of fellows. When Newman first spots him, he notices his "little ill-made coat, desperately brushed" and his "rusty, shapely hat" (1.29).

Hey. Aren't Parisians supposed to be effortlessly chic at all times? Thanks for bursting our bubble, Henry James.

M. Nioche tries really hard. He does his best to appear well-groomed…but the truth is that he's hanging on for dear life. James says it all when he tells us that M. Nioche looks like a fellow who has "had losses (1.29).

Those 19th Century folks sure knew how to be low-key snarky.

Newman likes M. Nioche for this very reason, though. Nioche may be down on his luck, but he pulls himself up by his bootstraps whenever he gets the chance (or the boots). If Nioche had the chance, he might be an entrepreneur. Instead, he's trying desperately to keep his daughter from falling into misfortune.

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