Washington Square


Henry James

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Washington Square: Chapter 21 Summary & Analysis

Aunt Almond finds Dr. Sloper cold-blooded in his amusement at Catherine’s determination to “stick.” Dr. Sloper says that he has never expected Catherine to provide him with this kind of excitement. Aunt Almond, on the other hand, says that simple natures like Catherine’s always “cling.” Catherine, she says, “doesn’t take many impressions; but when she takes one she keeps it. She is like a copper kettle that receives a dent; you may polish up the kettle, but you can’t efface the mark.” Dr. Sloper says that he will try to “polish” Catherine with a trip to Europe, in the hope that Morris will forget her.
Aunt Almond again has a better read of Catherine’s character, and her brother’s, than anyone else does. Aunt Almond rightly perceives Catherine’s loyalty, and also anticipates the long-lasting effects that these events are likely to have on her gentle nature. Dr. Sloper, however, believes that bribery, travel, and temporary distance will suffice to distract Catherine and Morris from one another.
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Related Quotes
Aunt Penniman meets with Morris again in secret with the advice that, in light of Dr. Sloper’s narrow-mindedness, Morris should “watch and wait” instead of marrying immediately. Morris wryly observes that Mrs. Penniman is inconsistent, and that it would be awkward to back out now, as Catherine has already agreed to a private marriage. Aunt Penniman is pleased at this news and tells Morris that Catherine loves him so much, she will agree to anything.
Aunt Penniman is characteristically caught up in the suspense and romance of the situation for their own sake and is only secondarily concerned with helping Catherine, a fact that Morris picks up on.
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