Washington Square

by

Henry James

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Washington Square: Chapter 15 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Dr. Sloper is puzzled and almost disappointed by Catherine’s passive, unemotional response to his rejection of her engagement; he assumes she will do as she’s told and that there will be no more “entertainment.” Catherine, meanwhile, begins to discover that there is “great excitement in trying to be a good daughter,” but is unsure what she will do.
Dr. Sloper’s inclination to take his daughter’s relational drama as a form of amusement suggests a lack of tenderness toward his own child. At the very least, he underestimates her. Catherine, for her part, feels an unfamiliar stirring that she won’t always be perfectly obedient and fulfill her father’s expectations—a new sensation she finds curious and exciting.
Themes
Gaining Independence Theme Icon
Reason, Romanticism, and Blind Spots Theme Icon
Women’s Limited Freedoms Theme Icon
Catherine obeys Dr. Sloper’s orders not to see Morris, but she exchanges letters with him. She asks Morris for a little time to think, as the idea of “setting up her will against [her father’s] own, was heavy on her soul.” She still believes that if she is both obedient to her father and faithful to Morris, somehow Heaven will reconcile both sides of the apparent impasse.
Catherine still struggles with the idea of going against her father’s will in any way, after so many years of steadfast admiration and loyalty. In a touching display of naïve reasoning, Catherine trusts that if she continues to be good, somehow everything will come right in the end.
Themes
Gaining Independence Theme Icon
Loss and Idealization Theme Icon
Women’s Limited Freedoms Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Aunt Penniman, meanwhile, is not much help. She can only daydream about a fantasy scenario in which Catherine and Morris are secretly married, with herself playing some heroic role in the arrangements. She writes Morris daily updates from Washington Square and eventually asks to meet with him in secret. To Morris’s irritation, she invites him to an oyster restaurant in another part of the city. Thrilling at the romance of it all, Aunt Penniman arrives there wrapped in a thick veil.
While Aunt Penniman’s secret maneuverings (and Morris’s thinly veiled annoyance in response) are humorous, they also hint at Aunt Penniman’s pathological need to put herself at the center of other people’s drama and to romanticize their circumstances—traits that will only become more prominent and more troubling.
Themes
Loss and Idealization Theme Icon
Reason, Romanticism, and Blind Spots Theme Icon
Related Quotes