Washington Square


Henry James

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Washington Square: Chapter 7 Summary & Analysis

Dr. Sloper, however, is “more than anything else amused” by the possibility of his daughter having a suitor. He thinks it’s “vulgar” to accuse someone too quickly of having mercenary motives, and he is curious whether a young man might love Catherine for her “moral worth.” He tells Mrs. Penniman to invite Morris to dinner the next time he calls.
Dr. Sloper still isn’t taking the situation—or his daughter—very seriously. He declines to jump to conclusions about Morris’s motives and remains open to the possibility that Morris might really love Catherine, even though she isn’t a catch.
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The dinner takes place a few days later. Morris admires Dr. Sloper’s good wine, and Dr. Sloper admires Morris’s innate abilities; however, he doesn’t like Morris very much, thinking him too self-assured, with great “powers of invention.” Morris can tell Dr. Sloper doesn’t care for him and tells Catherine, who replies that she never contradicts her father and that his opinion matters to her greatly.
Dr. Sloper suspects that Morris is an overconfident teller of tales. Morris wants to hear Catherine say that she’ll defend him to her father, but at this point, such a thing is hardly conceivable to Catherine—she still idolizes her father and can’t imagine going against him.
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Later, when Dr. Sloper talks with Mrs. Almond, he says that Catherine will have to get over her feelings for Morris, because he is “not a gentleman,” having “a vulgar nature […] altogether too familiar.” He claims to have arrived at this judgment based on thirty years of observing human nature. All that’s necessary for Catherine to be persuaded of the same is to “present her with a pair of spectacles.”
Dr. Sloper’s estimation of Morris’s character appears to have less to do with his financial status, per se, than with his too personable interactions with others. Dr. Sloper thinks his view is justifiable based on long years of observing people, and that if only Catherine looks at the clear evidence in the same way, she will arrive at the same opinion.
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