Study Guide

The American Chapter 1

By Henry James

Chapter 1

  • Christopher Newman is hanging out in the Louvre Museum, as one does (if one is a Francophile American).
  • Turns out this Newman guy is the kind of tourist who puts Rick Steves to shame: he's sweating up a storm from checking out every painting in the place.
  • Luckily, there's someone else he can rest his eyes on. A flirty young French woman named Noémie Nioche is making a copy of a Madonna picture.
  • Being quite the connoisseur of French artwork, Newman offers to buy it.
  • But Noémie knows how to strike a hard bargain. Our American pal puts down 2,000 francs for the privilege of taking the picture home. Dang.
  • Ah, but the picture isn't dry yet. Noémie tells Newman that her dad will bring it to him when it's ready.
  • In fact, Noémie's dear old pop is lurking in the background to take his daughter home.
  • Noémie quickly tells Monsieur Nioche to ask if Newman wants to take French lessons from him. Expensive French lessons.
  • As a matter of fact, Newman does want to learn French. With crafty Noémie's help, they settle on a pricy sum.
  • Newman asks M. Nioche to think about something "cheerful" to chat about in French, once they begin their lessons the following week. We guess Newman's paying him enough to make some demands.
  • Noémie and M. Nioche split before Newman can change his mind about all the dough he just shelled out.

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