Washington Square


Henry James

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Washington Square: Chapter 13 Summary & Analysis

Dr. Sloper has spent his entire medical career making quick estimations of people, and 19 times out of 20, he has been right. Aunt Almond suggests that perhaps Morris Townsend is the 20th case. Dr. Sloper doesn’t think so, but to give him the benefit of the doubt, he will meet Morris’s sister, Mrs. Montgomery.
Aunt Almond represents a voice of moderation and balance compared to Aunt Penniman’s romance and Dr. Sloper’s devotion to “reason.” She wisely points out that a quick “diagnosis,” like those upon which Dr. Sloper’s career has been built, might not be sufficient in this scenario.
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Dr. Sloper continues to rely on the belief that Catherine’s longstanding admiration for him will win out over her newfound love for Morris. Aunt Almond is not so sure, and anyway, she points out, Aunt Penniman will be pulling on Morris’s side. Dr. Sloper replies that he will have “no treason” in his house. He says that though he is “harmless,” he builds on Catherine and Lavinia’s fear of him—“the salutary terror I inspire!”
Though he makes a joke of it, Dr. Sloper rightly estimates the stifling effect that he has on Lavinia and Catherine. His representation of dissent as “treason,” though satirical, is a bit chilling.
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