Study Guide

The American Chapter 17

By Henry James

Chapter 17

  • Newman's a solitary guy. He goes to the opera Don Giovanni alone, despite the fact that he has a fiancé who likes opera.
  • Who should Newman spot but Urbain and his young wife (the Marquise)?
  • Noémie's there, too, but she's with a young man Newman doesn't recognize. Everyone's at the opera.
  • Newman feels like he really should say hello to the de Bellegarde family.
  • On the way, he runs into Valentin. Valentin's practically weeping.
  • He's obsessed with Noémie, who doesn't seem to care that much for him.
  • Newman essentially says, "Just say the word, and I'll get you a job in a bank in America."
  • The idea seems to grow on Valentin. He catches Newman in the lobby during the second act to tell him he's seriously thinking about it.
  • Oh yeah, but first he wants to go see Noémie. Newman recognizes instantly that this is a bad idea.
  • Next thing Newman knows, Valentin is getting into fisticuffs with Noémie's companion.
  • Newman pokes his head into Noémie's box and finds her totally alone. She's pretty excited about the prospect of two guys dueling over her.
  • Newman rushes off to find Valentin. Yep, he's planning to duel over Noémie. Whoopee.
  • The dude he's dueling, Stanislas Kapp, insulted him. It's a done deal.
  • When Newman swings by Claire's place the next day, she's pretty worried about the whole plan to duel.
  • Weirdly enough, the duel can't take place on French soil. It's illegal.
  • So Valentin announces his plan to take a train to Geneva. There, the deed will be done.
  • Before he leaves, he has a last dinner with Newman. They really are best buds.
  • Even though Newman begs him to reconsider, Valentin stubbornly decides to go.

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