Summary and Analysis Book 12: Chapter V


Strether has one more separation to face and sends a word to Maria to ask if he might come for breakfast. When she tells him she wishes he would continue to make her home a “haven of rest,” he says, “It wouldn’t give me — that would be the trouble — what it will, no doubt, still give you.” They discuss Chad’s business ability and Maria mentions that he has never told her what the product is that is produced at Woollett. In the next breath, she decides she never wants to know. She finally comes to the possibility that Chad may go back to Woollett after all, and Strether answers, “I don’t think it will be for the money.” He continues, “I’ve done what I could — one can’t do more. He protests his devotion and his horror. But I’m not sure I’ve saved him. He protests too much. He asks how one can dream of his being tired. But he has all life before him.”

Maria wonders whether anything can be done to patch up the relationship between Strether and Mrs. Newsome, and he shakes his head no. “I do what I didn’t before — I see her.” She again expresses her desire that he stay with her in Paris, and hardly understanding himself why he can’t, Strether insists he must go. In an attempt at an explanation, he says, “I must go. . . . To be right. . . . That, you see, is my only logic. Not, out of the whole affair, to have got anything for myself.”


Although Strether explains that it is his resolve to get nothing in the affair for himself, Maria knows that he has in fact profited greatly from his experience: “. . . you’ll have got a great deal.” Maria can see Strether as he cannot see himself, and, what is more, she is in love with him. Strether knows this, but he cannot accept her love because of his feelings for Madame de Vionnet and because accepting Maria would mean that he had somehow got something for himself out of the affair. Strether maintains his sense of integrity to the very end.