Study Guide

The American Ambition

By Henry James


Ambition is the bread and butter of every character in The American. Sure, they all have different ambitions. Newman wants to solidify his social standing and millionaire status by landing the perfect wife. Noemie wants all of the money. Claire might not be traditionally read as ambitious, but she understands how important it is to do justice to her family's name.

The American might be read as a case study in ambition and the sometimes disastrous results it produces. We're not saying that being ambitious is a bad thing, but being blinded by ambition is a very real problem Newman has to figure out. Good luck, guy.

Questions About Ambition

  1. Who's the most ambitious character in The American?
  2. What lengths will Noemie go to in order to become wealthy?
  3. Is having ambition beneficial, or does it get certain characters in trouble?

Chew on This

Newman's ambitions bring him great wealth and great worry.

Valentin's lack of ambition is a family sore spot.

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