Washington Square


Henry James

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Washington Square: Chapter 29 Summary & Analysis

As it turns out, Aunt Penniman shrinks from the task of telling Catherine of Morris’s plan, which means that Morris finds himself paying numerous uncomfortable visits to Washington Square while Catherine, trustingly, waits for him to name their wedding day. At one point, Morris tries to provoke a quarrel with Catherine. He tells her he needs to go to New Orleans to make $6,000 selling cotton. Catherine protests that they have waited too long already, and Morris shouldn’t be thinking about business, but about their marriage. They argue about when Morris should visit again, and Catherine becomes agitated, suspecting that Morris is leaving for good. She reminds him how much she has given up for him, but he just promises to write her, and leaves.
Morris’s cowardly solution is to pick a fight with Catherine so that he has an excuse to leave her. He can’t squarely face up to how cruel he’s being. Notably, when Morris gives her a transparently flimsy story about a business trip, Catherine asserts that she deserves to be his first priority—a bold claim she wouldn’t have made earlier in the story. By this time, she suspects the truth, but Morris leaves without clearly breaking things off between them. Once again, he is the one leaving her “dangling.”
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