Study Guide

Mrs. Tristram in The American

By Henry James

Mrs. Tristram

Brains But Not Beauty

We have a deep, deep friend crush on Mrs. Tristram. Too bad she's fictional…and too bad that, even if she weren't fictional, she'd be long dead.

Mrs. Tristram is straight up awesome. She's witty and wise, not to mention a good friend to Newman in his time of need. And yet the book makes sure to note that she's not a beauty. In fact, this lack of beauty forced her to spend "hours with her back to the mirror, crying her eyes out […] (3.4).

Oof. That doesn't sound fun.

We think this is an important detail. Mrs. Tristram comes to terms with the fact that she'll never be a beauty queen, and instead happily spends her days helping people. She's made a good life for herself with Mr. Tristram, so she wants to spread the love around.

Newman's Best Pal

Friends like Mrs. Tristram don't come around very often. When Newman tells her he's resolved not to expose the Bellegardes, she says she "should have liked immensely to see your paper" (24.27).

After all, she continues, she considers herself to be Newman's mentor. She tried to set him up with Claire, after all. Friends like that don't grow on trees.

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