The American

Inciting Event: Newman meets Madame de Cintrè. This is a love story, and as such the big moment that launches the plot is the moment that brings the romantic leads together. But this moment doesn’t force them together. They can and do walk away from each other at this point. This is just the set-up.

First Plot Point: Newman visits Madame de Cintrè’s family. This is the scene in which the two characters become inextricably involved. Newman decides he wants to court Madame de Cintrè. Now, they’re no longer just strangers passing in the night; now they’re people who actually know each other and have a stake in one another.

Just as importantly, this introduces the antagonists: her mother and brother, who will stand between Newman and his desired bride.

First Pinch Point: After Newman first proposes marriage, Madame de Cintrè makes him promise not to ask again for six months. Furthermore, her mother and brother frown upon Newman’s suit because they dislike his lack of a noble title. They later agree to his courtship, but this officially sets up the power they will hold over the relationship.

Midpoint: Newman and Madame de Cintrè get engaged. The conflict completely changes here. Up to this point, Newman was aggressively pursuing his goal to gain Madame de Cintrè’s hand, but he wasn’t in control of the conflict. Now, he has gained a definite measure of control over the antagonists, which he lacked previously.

Second Pinch Point: Madame de Cintrè’s family forces her to break the engagement and she goes away. The antagonists flex their impressive powers here–so impressively that this actually feels more like the Third Plot Point, in the sense that this is where the protagonist loses everything he cares about. But the timing (although it’s a little late to be the Pinch Point) and the lack of any other obvious contender for the Pinch Point make this the obvious answer.

Third Plot Point: Madame de Cintrè’s younger brother dies after being shot in a duel, but first tells Newman to pressure his family with their dark secret. Madame de Cintrè tells Newman she’s going to become a nun. Here, we see Newman appearing to achieve a measure of success over the antagonists–only to have it dashed from him in his lowest moment yet.

Climax: Newman learns Madame de Cintrè’s mother was responsible for her father’s death. He intends to use this information to blackmail the mother and older brother into allowing Madame de Cintrè to marry him. This brings the protagonist and the antagonists into their final confrontation. From here, one or the other of them must emerge victorious.

Climactic Moment: Newman decides to give up the countess. Here, it is the antagonists who triumph, because Newman can’t stomach the means he would have to use to bring the antagonists to heel.

Resolution: Newman burns the letter that indicates the mother’s guilt. He ties off the last of the loose ends so the story can end.

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