The American: Top Ten Quotes

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  1. “His usual attitude and carriage were of a rather relaxed and lounging kind, but when under a special inspiration, he straightened himself, he looked like a grenadier on parade.”

    Chapter I, p. 3.

    Newman's physical appearance and movements give a clue to his character. He is informal and relaxed of posture as he is in his manner to the world. He is not trying to uphold some place or persona in the social world. His manners are open and frank, and that is the way he moves. If challenged, however, he shifts into a posture like a soldier. He does not let people walk over him and will fight back.

  2. “It was our friend's eye that chiefly told his story; an eye in which innocence and experience were singularly blended. It was full of contradictory suggestions . . .” 

    Chapter I, p. 4.

    Newman, like most of James's characters, is rounded and realistic, with competing psychological drives. Newman is innocent in terms of social manners. He meets people honestly and expects the same in return. He does not look for evil in others. On the other hand, he is thirty-six, is a millionaire in business, and has been through the American Civil War as a soldier.

  3. “Life had been for him an open game, and he had played for high stakes. He had won at last and carried off his winnings; and now what was he to do with them?”

    Chapter II, p. 17.

    Newman feels like a success. He has already accomplished what he considered his purpose in life—to make money. Now in Europe, he begins to understand that there could be other things to pursue.

  4. “His mind could no more hold principles than a sieve can hold water.”

    Chapter V, p. 51.

    Newman is unable to discuss religion with Babcock. He is a practical man, and a moral man, but he does not live by principles or a social or religious code.

  5. “They persecute her. But I can almost forgive them, because, as I told you, she is a saint, and a persecution is all that she needs to bring out her saintliness and make her perfect."

    Chapter VI, p. 58.

    Mrs. Tristram is urging Newman to rescue Claire, but instead, she unconsciously predicts Claire's being driven to the convent by her family's bullying.

  6. “I am on my knees to money; I don't deny it. If you have it, I ask no questions. For that I am a real democrat—like you, monsieur.”

    Chapter VI, p. 66.

    Urbain de Bellegarde's young wife flirts with Newman and protests she is a democrat, not aristocratic. She poses and puts on an act with him.

  7. “You cannot marry a woman like Madame de Cintré for the asking."

    Chapter VIII, p. 84.

    Valentin tries to explain that Newman is not qualified to marry into their family because he is not of noble birth. Newman thinks his money and character and love are enough.

  8. “I honestly believe I have no hidden vices or nasty tricks. I am kind, kind, kind! Everything that a man can give a woman I will give you.”

    Chapter IX, p. 90.

    Newman tries to assure Claire that he is not like the husband she was forced to marry before. He is open, frank, and will be good to her.

  9. “Newman had never yet been confronted with such an incarnation of the art of taking one's self seriously; he felt a sort of impulse to step backward, as you do to get a view of a great facade.”

    Chapter X, p. 100.

    Newman dislikes Madame de Cintré's older brother, Urbain, who is proud of upholding the ancient family name and insists on acting like a monument to tradition. He is scornful of Newman's lower class ways.

  10. “'My power,' said Madame de Bellegarde, 'is in my children's obedience.'”

    Chapter XVIII, p. 185.

    The wedding is off when the marquise commands her daughter to break off the engagement to Newman. Her children are in fear of her; she holds something unspeakable over their heads. The mother has been cruel once more; this time letting Claire and Newman go very far in the relationship and then demanding it to be finished. Newman is in shock that the old woman has such power. He believes her to be evil.

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