Washington Square


Henry James

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Washington Square: Chapter 16 Summary & Analysis

During her secret meeting with Morris at the oyster saloon, Aunt Penniman tries to convince him that Dr. Sloper will never be reconciled to his romance with Catherine; he must marry Catherine first and tell Dr. Sloper after the fact. (“The woman’s an idiot,” Morris thinks, though he is outwardly civil.) Aunt Penniman explains that this course of action will persuade Dr. Sloper that Morris is not mercenary, and in the end, he will make some amends for his earlier coldness. Morris is unconvinced, even admitting that he does “like the money.” When he walks Aunt Penniman home, he eyes Washington Square and thinks the Slopers’ place “a devilish comfortable house.”
Caught up in the romantic potential of the whole situation, Aunt Penniman tries to convince an exasperated Morris that an elopement is the only way forward. Morris doesn’t conceal the fact that Catherine’s fortune is appealing to him, and he finds the Slopers’ house, which he would stand to inherit, attractive. Nevertheless, he sees through Aunt Penniman’s meddlesome self-importance and only indulges her with this conversation.
Class, Wealth, and Social Status Theme Icon
Reason, Romanticism, and Blind Spots Theme Icon