Study Guide

The American Chapter 8

By Henry James

Chapter 8

  • It's time to talk about Claire. Newman is practically chomping at the bit to find out more about her.
  • Valentin thinks she's practically perfect in every way.
  • Unfortunately, she has a very sad history. Everybody shed a tear for our favorite heroine.
  • See, Claire married the awful Comte de Cintré when she was eighteen.
  • And this guy was a jerkbag. Not only was he old and ugly, but he also was mean to Claire.
  • The only pleasant thing about him, according to Valentin, is that he didn't live too long after the wedding.
  • Before you start breaking out the vintage Kanye, Claire certainly isn't a gold digger. She gave all the money back to the Comte de Cintré's family after they made a fuss.
  • Claire's mom and evil brother (not Valentin, Urbain) wanted her to keep the money. Surprise, surprise.
  • Finally, they relented and let Claire wash her hands of the dirty matter.
  • But there's a catch: Claire has to do anything they want for ten years. Anything, that is, except marry.
  • Wait—so why is Claire so eager to please her family? Newman's a little confused.
  • Valentin explains that the aristocratic Bellegardes have always married into rich and aristocratic families. No exceptions.
  • Newman waits a couple of beats, and then asks Valentin the inevitable: does he have a shot with Claire?
  • Valentin is blown away, frankly. He thinks Newman has courage to try to court Claire as a lowly businessman.
  • After thinking about it for a bit, Valentin decides he's going to help Newman. It will be a funny diversion, after all.

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