Washington Square


Henry James

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Washington Square: Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

A few days later, Arthur and Morris Townsend pay a visit to Washington Square. Catherine tells Arthur that his cousin Morris seems “like a foreigner,” and Arthur says that some would call his cousin “too clever.” When Catherine asks Arthur whether Morris will stay in New York now that he’s returned from travels abroad, Arthur says he’ll stay “if he can get something to do.” Catherine has never heard of an upper-class young man in this situation.
The Townsends’ visit hints that Morris remains interested in Catherine. Catherine is still struck by Morris’s seeming uniqueness, though his cousin’s words suggest there’s a darker undertone to his smooth personality. Catherine doesn’t know how to categorize a young gentleman who doesn’t have a profession—even young men of means were expected to support themselves in some way in the early American republic.
Class, Wealth, and Social Status Theme Icon
After the young men leave, Aunt Penniman tells Catherine that she believes Morris is “coming a-courting.” Given that Morris has “barely heard the sound of her voice,” Catherine does not quite believe this, assuming it must be a figment of her aunt’s romantic imagination.
Catherine’s reaction to her aunt’s claim shows how unassuming she is, and also that she’s not as susceptible to her aunt’s fancies as Dr. Sloper has assumed she might be.
Reason, Romanticism, and Blind Spots Theme Icon