Strether’s downfall

The anamorphosis of the skull in Holbein’s painting is a representation of a theme seen in the novel. The anamorphosis suggest a hunting failure that Strether has and can not get rid of. Initially Strehter’s hunting was the death of his son and wife. Now Strether’s hunting is his inability to fulfill his ambassador role. Stether’s duty constantly haunts him because he knows Mrs. Newsome is depending on him. This can be seen when Strether reveals that he believes Madame de Vionnet is the reason for Chad’s improvement. Strether therefore dismisses the reason he came to Paris which was to encourage Chad to leave Paris and come home. Strether’s shift in his feelings can be seen when he promises Madame de Vionnet that he will try to keep Chad near her. In addition, to forshadow Strether’s failure, Mrs. Newsome writes a letter to him, demanding he end his role as an ambassador. Strether’s services are no longer needed by her. If Strether is unable t bring Chad back home, he will not expand his wealth, or his social class.

When first viewing Holbein’s painting , I though that it related to the novel The Amassadors. Due to the painting , I believed the novel would would about the differences in social class, because I noticed two men in the painting. One man appeared to be wealthy and well experienced because of the rich clothing he had on, and a globe in his background. The other man appeared to be middle class, yet not as experienced as the other due to his dull clothing and insignifcant objects in his background. The painiting made me feel that the middle class man would somehow rise to the top, and gain wealth. Yet in the novel, Strether, whom I characterized as the middle class man failed at his duty as an ambassordor, and therefore could not gain the wealth Mrs. Newsome tried to offer him. Strether also turned down the marriage of Ms. Gostrey.

After finishing the novel , and viewing Holbein’s painting again, the anamorphosis of the skull in the painting gives meaning to the novel. I now realize that this anamorphosis technique was used perhaps to show that one of the two men would suffer a great loss, or experience failure. In the novel, Strether is seen as a failure. because he ends in the same situation as when the novel first began.

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2 Responses to Strether’s downfall

  1. Dominique says:

    By the end, Chad does decide to return to Woollet — so it’s not a failure from Mrs. Newsome’s standpoint. If Strether has still failed in some way at the end, in what way has he failed?


  2. Priest says:

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