Strether is ripe for the influence Europe exerts over him; he'd been to Paris only once, and as a young newlywed at that. He returns much later in life as a widower newly engaged to experience a lifestyle he had foregone. In one of the novel's central episodes Strether, with equal parts rapture and regret, instructs a younger character to "live" — to indulge in the lifestyle that he had only belatedly come to enjoy.

The novel has perhaps rightly been hailed as one of the most geometrically perfect specimens of the form; James manages to layer dichotomy upon dichotomy, all the while deftly walking the tightrope. Most obviously (and most Jamesianly), Lambert Strether is caught up between the two very powerful forces of America (duty) and Europe (life). America has time on its side; Europe, experience. The Strether to whom we are introduced has neither. We meet him midway on his transatlantic journey during a stopover in England — an England that seems to be poised exactly on the brink between two eras: the conservative Victorian epoch and a more lax, modern Edwardian one — foreshadowing the central conflict and Strether's internal struggle in a type of the tensile force that carries the entire novel all the way through its sublime tragic-comic conclusion.

Strether, late in life, feels himself deficient of the second type of experience described at the beginning of this section. His character throws into stark relief these two different types of experience — "practice" versus "event" — and the notion that a life can be lopsided one way or the other (in this case to the detriment of the event-type experience). In our era, Steve Jobs articulated this problem in his industry as manifesting itself as a lack of source material for the synthetic-creative:

Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn't really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That's because they were able to connect experiences they've had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they've had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people. Unfortunately, that's too rare a commodity. A lot of people in our industry haven't had very diverse experiences. So they don't have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one's understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have. (Steve Jobs, Wired, February 1996)

In Strether's case, his attempt to make up for lost time and to boost his "event" experience provides the basis for the comedy of the novel; that it is too late for him, the tragedy.

I was drawn to The Ambassadors as source material for an opera because it seemed to me an apotheosis of the border state. It seemed a lucky stroke that such a text existed that would so fittingly lend itself aesthetically and formally to my music, and doubly lucky that it had not previously been adapted. I approached Sheffler to craft the libretto, as a sort of neatly reciprocal punishment for her having once hoisted a programmatic project onto my workspace in the form of Guide/Infinite Progress. What's worse: I knew she professed a distaste for Henry James, but I wagered