Washington Square

by

Henry James

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Washington Square: Chapter 11 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
That evening Catherine goes to Dr. Sloper’s study and tells him that she is engaged to Morris. Dr. Sloper observes that their relationship has moved very fast Then he tells her that he doesn’t like the engagement and that she has taken advantage of his indulgence; she ought to have spoken to him first. Catherine explains that she was afraid he didn’t like Morris, and she argues that he doesn’t know Morris well enough. Dr. Sloper says that he has his “impression” of Morris, and that Catherine only knows what Morris has chosen to show her of himself.
Catherine shows a degree of boldness in her willingness to push back against her father’s disapproval. Dr. Sloper continues to maintain that a bare “impression” of Morris tells him everything he needs to know. At the same time, he’s right that Catherine’s knowledge of Morris is limited, too.
Themes
Gaining Independence Theme Icon
Reason, Romanticism, and Blind Spots Theme Icon
Catherine says that Dr. Sloper thinks Morris “mercenary,” and Dr. Sloper concedes that this is true, since Morris has already spent his own fortune, and there’s every reason to expect he would do the same with Catherine’s. Catherine finds “something hopeless and oppressive” in having to argue with her father, but nevertheless vouches for Morris’s abilities and character. Her father embraces her and promises to be kind to her, but tells her not to spread the news of her engagement. He will speak to Morris tomorrow.
Catherine idealizes her father so much and trusts so deeply in his judgment that arguing with him is disorienting for her. Yet she steadfastly speaks up for Morris despite her discomfort, which shows her conflicting loyalties. At this point, Dr. Sloper responds to his daughter with gentleness, which may feel to the reader more unsettling than comforting.
Themes
Gaining Independence Theme Icon
Loss and Idealization Theme Icon
Reason, Romanticism, and Blind Spots Theme Icon
Women’s Limited Freedoms Theme Icon