Study Guide

The American Appearances

By Henry James

Appearances

Christopher Newman's all about consuming beauty. He loves roaming around the Louvre, devouring every masterpiece with his eyes and playing at being an art connoisseur. When he's not looking at pretty things, he's throwing his money around in an effort to find a pretty young thing to be his arm candy.

But Newman's money only goes so far. To use an old cliché, appearances can be deceiving.

For instance, Newman's totally entranced by Claire's beauty. He sees her and immediately wants her to be his. But Newman isn't prepared for all the complications beneath Claire's smiling mug. When he finally gets a glimpse at Claire's grief, he offers to throw money at it to make it go away.

Hey, Newman; Claire's not a painting that you can buy.

Questions About Appearances

  1. What is it about Claire that entrances Newman so much? Does it go beyond appearances?
  2. Newman is described as a "powerful specimen of an American" (1.2). Hubba, hubba. Do Newman's physical traits influence how he acts in French society?
  3. How does Mrs. Tristram's lack of traditional beauty shape her social strategies?
  4. In what ways does Newman seem to be oblivious of how much appearance matters?

Chew on This

Newman longs to be an expert on art because he longs to be accepted into French culture.

Claire rarely notices beauty because her family and lifestyle have immured her to its existence.

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