Study Guide

The American Choices

By Henry James


Our boy Newman doesn't just make choices. He makes dramatic choices that involve scurrying off to France to find a wife. He leaves his fortune and his life in America at the drop of a hat. See, making a choice is a novelty to Newman. His wealth buys him a lot of freedom.

Maybe that's why Newman doesn't understand Claire's indecisiveness, or the Bellegarde family's tendency to waffle about their decision to marry off Claire. Choices carry more weight to the Bellegarde family, even if those choices seem arbitrary to the spontaneous Newman. Maybe if he learned to hold his horses and strategize a bit more, his plan to marry Claire would go off without a hitch.

Questions About Choices

  1. Why are Newman's choices always portrayed so dramatically?
  2. What is Claire's process for making decisions? Does she ever make a firm decision about Newman?
  3. Why does the de Bellegarde family back out of their promise to marry Newman to Claire?
  4. Which character's choices pay off the most for them in the end?

Chew on This

Claire's caught between an old-school world where women are prevented from making choices and modern society.

All of Newman's failures help him make better choices.

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