Washington Square


Henry James

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Washington Square: Chapter 31 Summary & Analysis

A few days later, Catherine receives an eloquent letter from Morris, explaining that he doesn’t want to come between her and her father, that professional pursuits will take him away from New York indefinitely, and expressing a hope that they can remain friends. Catherine says nothing to her father about these developments. A week later, Dr. Sloper finally confronts Catherine, wanting to know when she will be married. Catherine explains that she’s broken off the engagement. The doctor “has his revenge,” telling Catherine, “you are rather cruel, after encouraging him and playing with him for so long!”
Morris finally breaks things off between the two of them unequivocally. When Dr. Sloper learns what’s happened, he can’t resist making a heartless remark, suggesting that Morris is the one who’s been strung along and toyed with, not Catherine. This is reminiscent of Morris’ earlier comment that it’s not proper for women to leave men “dangling,” even though it was Morris, not Catherine, who was stringing the other along. Ultimately, Dr. Sloper’s capacity for cruelty toward his daughter is on clear display in this passage, even though he’s finally gotten what he wanted all along.
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