Study Guide

The American Chapter 3

By Henry James

Chapter 3

  • Newman accepts the dinner invitation and chows down at the Tristram household.
  • Mrs. Tristram isn't particularly beautiful, but she is particularly awesome. She's smart, witty, and can hold her own in conversation with Newman.
  • After hanging out with the Tristrams for a while, Newman starts to become better buddies with Mrs. Tristram than her husband.
  • Tom Tristram spends all his time hanging out at the Occidental Club, gossiping and being vulgar.
  • Mrs. Tristram's itching to set Newman up with an eligible young lady.
  • When he finally admits that getting married is his main goal in France, Mrs. Tristram is on it like white on rice.
  • In fact, Newman wants to marry a "magnificent" woman. Line on up, ladies.
  • But Mrs. Tristram totally has someone in mind: Claire de CintrĂ©, a beautiful widow.
  • Mrs. Tristram and Claire are old pals from school, although she admits Claire is out of her league (socially speaking).
  • The famous Claire got married at age eighteen to a rich old gentleman who made her life miserable before he died.
  • Although Mr. Tristram thinks Claire is "plain as a pikestaff," Newman is definitely into it.
  • Mrs. Tristram works fast. When Newman comes to visit next, Claire just so happens to be over at the same time.
  • Claire's turning down Mrs. Tristram's dinner offer because she'll be out of town. Naturally, the only aristocratic way to turn down an invitation is to do it in person.
  • Upon meeting Newman, Claire tells him she'd be delighted to have him visit her. You tell us: politeness or love at first sight?
  • Newman's practically lovestruck. With Mrs. Tristram's guidance, he heads over to Claire's place in St. Germaine a few days later.
  • A nice-looking young guy takes Newman's card and is about to invite him in, but a more forbidding-looking guy tells Newman to scram.
  • The scary dude says that Claire isn't home, but Newman suspects otherwise.

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