The Ambassadors Study Guide

The Ambassadors Study Guide

Original title:
The Ambassadors

No matter how rigid and defined the setting is, “The Ambassadors” is a book about emotions and emotional freedom. We meet the main character, Lambert Strether, a middle-aged and very ordinary man, who decides to marry a very proper woman. But his fiancée-to-be sets a condition: he shall find her delinquent son in Paris and return him home, preventing him from a scandalous affair with the “improper” woman.

When we start reading, the feeling of cold and cramped atmosphere engulfs us. There is no place for emotions at all, everything is already decided and defined, there is no room for the spontaneous actions. The people the character meets on his way become a breath of fresh air. Fascinated by the Parisian free spirit, Lambert gradually starts to open up for life. He rediscovers himself, learning to feel anew and finally starts to understand why the son of his future bride decided to leave his growing family business and flee to nowhere to be with his beloved.

The story of Lambert may seem exaggerated for the modern reader, for it is impossible for us to imagine how prudish and rigid was the society of that time. The choices that are made because of average human feelings and desires to enjoy life, to love and be loved and generally live one’s own life, not prescribed for them by their family, are portrayed as wrong and improper.

Lambert is called an “ambassador” during his mission, later we see another set of “ambassadors” sent after him. This excessive pathos that substitutes a simple request: “Please, find my son, I’m worried about him” covers the emotional shallowness of Lambert’s society that contrasts so much with the real and bright life he meets in Paris.

The story of Lambert is a tale about rediscovery of oneself after the years of living emotionally frozen. Opening up to life demands not only bravery and desire, but also the psychic ability to handle all these alien and overwhelming feelings. The lack of his ability can turn the meeting with the repressed emotions into a tragedy.

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