I propose a radically new reading of Lambert Strether's subjectivity in Henry James's The Ambassadors, one that challenges critical readings to date and suggests that Strether's journey reflects a tacit but very definite confrontation with the fundamental illusion of the core self. As he follows the trajectory of his desire, initially through identification with the "masculine" identity of Chad Newsome, Strether comes to see the limitations of conventional notions of masculinity. He discovers that the freedom he seeks is not to be found in the illusion of power characterized by masculine control and repression but rather in the vulnerable acceptance of fragmentation.
Knowledge and Representation in "The Ambassadors": Strether's Discriminating Gaze. Author(s): PHYLLIS VAN SLYCK Criticism, Vol. 39, No. 4 (fall, 1997), pp. 557-579