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The Ambassadors: Part 10, Chapters 25-27

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Part 10

Chapter 25
Three nights later, there is a big party at Chad’s, at which he showcases for his family all the glamorous people in his social circle. The purpose of the party, as with all the whirlwind of sightseeing Chad has arranged for the visitors thus far, is to dazzle the Pococks, and so to defeat them. Sarah will not be able to complain that Chad has not received her well, and so she will have no ammunition to use against her brother. Nonetheless, Strether is still waiting for the moment when Sarah will pounce, when she will attack. When she does, he knows, it will be on him.
At the party, Strether speaks to Bilham about the situation. Bilham believes that Sarah does see how magnificent Chad has become, but it only convinces her more than ever that he should come home and join the business. His newfound charm and urbanity will be of supreme use to the family back in Woollett. Bilham seems to think it not a bad idea for Chad to return; the people in Woollett are just as good as those in Paris. At any rate, he says, Sarah has made up her mind that Chad must come back, and Strether must ready himself.
Strether acknowledges that Sarah will attack, but asks for Bilham’s support. He wants Bilham to agree with him that Chad should stay with Mme. de Vionnet. He also urges Bilham to marry Mamie. It will clear the way for Chad, and also be a great match for Bilham. Chad doesn’t want Mamie, and Mamie doesn’t want Chad, anyway—she wants a man she can reform, or “save,” herself, not one who’s already been made over by another woman. As Chad is already too good for her, Mamie can make over Bilham instead.
As Bilham leaves Strether, shaking his head good-naturedly, Miss Barrace enters. She asks about Miss Gostrey; Strether says that his friend has remained at home, praying for him—she hasn’t had the nerve to come herself to witness the scene of the battle. The two discuss Sarah Pocock. She is magnificent; she has not allowed herself to be won over by Chad’s display. She has even succeeded in stealing away Waymarsh from Miss Barrace.
While the hero, Chad, cowers in a corner, Mme. de Vionnet is still battling it out. Miss Barrace observes triumphantly that the Countess has now got Jim Pocock under her power. She has courage; she is fighting for Chad. Miss Barrace makes Strether promise not to let Chad go home; Mme. de Vionnet loves him.
Chapter 26
Waymarsh comes to see Strether. He announces that Sarah is coming to talk to him and that he should cooperate with her. Waymarsh is changed; rosy; he has been to the flower market. He adds that the Pococks are going immediately to Switzerland so that Mrs. Pocock can enjoy some scenery in the Alps, and thence home, leaving Chad behind. Waymarsh is to travel with them. He adds that Strether should come as well, but Strether declines.
Waymarsh wonders if he himself really ought to go, clearly recognizing that his flirtation with a very married Sarah borders on the improper. However, in voicing this scruple, his voice sounds “feeble and flat.” The man who was formerly the “conscience of Milrose” has weakened. Strether urges him, “Let yourself, on the contrary, go—in all agreeable directions. These are precious hours—at our age they mayn’t recur. Don’t have it to say to yourself at Milrose, next winter, that you hadn’t courage for them.”
Waymarsh takes his leave, adding a final, half-hearted warning, “Quit this!” The words are the same as he used in Chapter 6, but the fierceness is gone.
Chapter 27
When Sarah arrives at the hotel to meet with Strether, the first remark Strether makes is about Waymarsh. Waymarsh has changed since meeting Sarah—he’s gotten healthier. Sarah has done him a lot of good.
Sarah makes no response to this. She is there to give Strether a chance to submit, to come to her side immediately and agree that Chad come back to Woollett at once. Strether only says, cautiously, that Chad has agreed to come back if his sister asks him to. Sarah asks him how he can possibly act as though there were any doubt that Chad must come back. His duty is to his mother, his sister, and his family—not to “another” (meaning Madame de Vionnet). Strether thinks Madame de Vionnet charming and beneficent, and appreciates all she has done for Chad, but Sarah sees the Countess, and her relationship with Chad, as unspeakably indecent. And, she sputters, how could Strether prefer such a one as Mme. de Vionnet to the truly distinguished Mrs. Newsome? After all, Mrs. Newsome who has done so much for him, and now sits at home, neglected and insulted, while he has a grand time in Europe at her expense. 
“Don’t you like your brother as he is?” asks Strether, coming around to the main point. “You don’t, on your honor, appreciate Chad’s fortunate development?”      
“Fortunate?” seethes Sarah. “I call it hideous.” She leaves him immediately and jumps into her carriage. It seems that all is at an end—there is nothing more to discuss. And Strether may now be cut off from Mrs. Newsome forever.
Analysis of Part 10
Since arriving in Paris to retrieve her brother, Sarah Pocock has been biding her time, watching and waiting for the right moment to attack. Meanwhile, Chad has been dazzling the Pococks in a whirlwind of activities, in hopes of charming, and thus disarming, the deadly delegation. The party at Chad’s is the young man’s last battle to win his sister over, but it fails. At the end of Part 10, Sarah makes her declaration: Chad is hideous, Mme. de Vionnet indecent, and by supporting them, Strether has insulted the family in a way that they can never forgive.
Strether and Sarah, the two ambassadors from America, are really opposites, and serve as foils for one another. Where Strether is open-minded, sympathetic, weak, and procrastinating, Sarah is closed-minded, stern, tough, and quick to act. When Strether hoped that Sarah would be able to see good in Chad, he underestimated the power of her resolve. Strether may have failed as Mrs. Newsome’s first ambassador, but Sarah, as the replacement ambassador, cannot be swayed from her mission. Her mind cannot be changed; a fact which makes her both “magnificent” and terrible. Waymarsh may be the only chink in Sarah’s armor. Her flirtation with him seems to have melted the ice somewhat and makes her appear more human. Certainly, their flirtation has tempered the sacred rage of Waymarsh—the former “conscience of Milrose” has lost some of his fire.
Strether still believes in the relationship between Chad and Mme. de Vionnet, although he is realizes that in doing so, he is going against the traditional values he once espoused and somehow selling his soul to the other side. As he jokingly tells Bilham, part of his reason for supporting the wholesome union of Bilham and Mamie is as penance for championing the rather questionable one between Chad and Mme. de Vionnet. As he puts it: “I’ve been sacrificing so to strange gods that I feel I want to put on record, somehow, my fidelity—fundamentally unchanged, after all—to our own. I feel as if my hands were embrued with the blood of monstrous alien altars—of another faith altogether.”
Also, in arranging a match between Bilham and Mamie, Strether—who lost his own son long ago—takes on a fatherly role toward the young man, as he has taken also toward Chad. Theirs is one of many surrogate parent/child mentoring relationships in the novel. Chad is like a father to Jeanne and arranges her engagement; Strether is like a father to Chad and helps ensure his relationship with Mme. de Vionnet; and Strether is fatherly toward Bilham and urges him to marry Mamie. Strether is “mothered” first by Mrs. Newsome and then by Mrs. Gostrey, who teaches him to “toddle” on his own in Europe. And, of course, Mme. de Vionnet, as the “older woman,” is a motherly figure to Chad, having made him over, according to Miss Gostrey, as all good French mothers will.


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