The Ambassadors: the dialectic of action and repose
Iacono, William Richard
Ward, J. A.
Master of Arts
The thesis of this essay is that there is a dialectical process of cognition in the mind of Lambert Strether and that this dialectic is reflected in the structure and themes of the novel. Previous investigations of the modes of cognition in James’s work have concentrated on the polarities of the Jamesian consciousness. This essay attempts to show how polarities are presented and resolved first, in the mind of Lambert Strether, second, in the structure of the novel in its individual parts and as a whole, and third, in the theme of "action vs. rest and repose." The essay outlines what Strether has learned through a consideration of the symbolic confrontation between the values of Woollett and Paris. The course of the novel traces Strether's growth from ignorance and self-deception to knowledge and self-awareness, and presents Strether's gradual synthesis of both action and repose while looking forward to his eventual return to action and the world of Woollett.