Washington Square

by

Henry James

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Washington Square: Chapter 26 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Catherine and Morris are reunited the next day. Catherine is excited and imagines that their troubles are over, though she tells Morris that they must expect for her to be disinherited. Morris suggests that he try persuading Dr. Sloper, as he has developed “more tact” over the past year. He explains that it’s not about the financial question alone, since of course they’ll be very comfortable without Sloper’s money, but it’s about the “moral comfort.” Catherine replies that she has plenty of “moral comfort.”
Morris, too, is not quite prepared for the more confident Catherine who has returned to Washington Square. He doesn’t recognize the independence Catherine has won or appreciate that she has indeed managed a moral victory since he last saw her, as shown by the fact that he reflexively offers to step in. Despite his claims that it’s about the principle of the thing, Morris still appears to be hung up on the money, too.
Themes
Gaining Independence Theme Icon
Class, Wealth, and Social Status Theme Icon
Women’s Limited Freedoms Theme Icon
When Morris continues to press the issue, Catherine calmly dissuades him, explaining that it’s now clear to her that her father isn’t fond of her, and that he can’t help it: “we can’t govern our affections […] it’s because he is so fond of my mother […] I am not at all like her.” She adds that she feels “separated” from Dr. Sloper and no longer minds his antipathy toward her or Morris so much.
Catherine’s greater perspective and maturity continue to be on display. She even has fresh insight into the conflict with her father: it’s rooted in his lifelong grief over the loss of his wife, next to whom Catherine has been such a disappointment. His wry detachment and obsession with “reason” have actually masked heartbreak.
Themes
Gaining Independence Theme Icon
Loss and Idealization Theme Icon
Reason, Romanticism, and Blind Spots Theme Icon
Women’s Limited Freedoms Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Catherine entreats Morris to be kind to her because of how much she’s given up for him. Rather glibly, he acknowledges this. With greater emotion, Catherine describes the unhappiness of being estranged from her father in this way, after having “worshipped” him before. She will never ask or expect anything from Dr. Sloper again.
Morris doesn’t really seem to understand or appreciate the magnitude of what Catherine has sacrificed for his sake—that she has been completely disillusioned of her once unflinching loyalty to her father and can never relate to him as a beloved daughter again, much less idealize him anymore.
Themes
Gaining Independence Theme Icon
Loss and Idealization Theme Icon