The Ambassadors

April 11, 2011

An Ambassador can be defined as “the highest ranking diplomat who represents a nation and is usually accredited to a foreign sovereign or government, or to an international organization.” (Wikipedia) As I finished the novel I tried to relate it to the picture of the Ambassadors that Henry James saw before titling his novel.  I still don’t really understand the relation between the two. But I do have a couple of ideas.  Perhaps, the two men faced the same problem as Strether;  being that the biggest regret of his life was him forgetting that he too will die.  The 2 Ambassadors do not look like they have lived the happiest, fullest, lives either. The picture does however set up the scene.  Strether is also worried about his failures, and these failures are haunting him.  A very nervous guy that carries around with him his past nightmares.  Perhaps James saw Strether in the solemn face Ambassadors of the painting.

This novel shows a great difference between innocence and experience.  In Glorian’s Garden, Strether reminds his young friends to live life to the fullest.  He wants the young to learn from his mistake.  Perhaps this garden can be related to a miniature version of the Garden of Eden.  Characters enter gardens and then learn things that may lure away innocence.

Anamorphosis can be defined as a distorted projection that requires the viewer to occupy a vantage point in order to see the image a different way.  If one looks head on at the Ambassador painting, it is very difficult to see the skull on the bottom of the painting.  Just like if one was to look at Strether above the surface, one may not realize his sorrows and regrets.  Remember you too shall die, echoes throughout this book and this painting.