Dr. Sloper complains to Aunt Almond that Catherine has come home as immovable as he is on the subject of Morris; Aunt Almond is touched by the fact and takes care to show “motherly kindness” to her niece. Aunt Penniman, meanwhile, writes to Morris to warn him that Dr. Sloper hasn’t budged. She has “adopted” Morris like a mother over the past year, having never had a child of her own and found Catherine lacking as a surrogate Penniman.
The contrast between Aunt Almond’s and Aunt Penniman’s “motherly” instincts is pronounced. Aunt Almond, again, understands Catherine better than her father does and perceives how much she’s suffered. Aunt Penniman, on the other hand, only sees the ways Catherine has been a disappointment to her and looks to Morris to satisfy the perceived lack.