Washington Square

by

Henry James

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Washington Square: Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Morris visits Catherine more and more, and Catherine is very happy. Though she is in love, she has “only a consciousness of immense and unexpected favors.” Dr. Sloper wishes to give Catherine her liberty, but is nevertheless annoyed by her secrecy and Aunt Penniman’s complicity in it. He presses Aunt Penniman for details, with limited success.
Catherine is unassuming in her romance with Morris, having never experienced courtship before and perhaps not having expected it. Dr. Sloper, on one hand, seems to want to be a liberal-minded father, or to believe that he is, but he’s unhappy with his limited knowledge of what’s happening under his own roof.
Themes
Gaining Independence Theme Icon
Reason, Romanticism, and Blind Spots Theme Icon
Women’s Limited Freedoms Theme Icon
Aunt Penniman finally reveals something of the “misfortunes” Morris has told her about, claiming he’s alone in the world and has been betrayed by false friends. She claims he’s “earnestly” searching for a position, and Dr. Sloper retorts that he’s looking for one in the Slopers’ front parlor—“the position of husband of a weak-minded woman with a large fortune would suit him to perfection!” Aunt Penniman is disgusted by this statement, asserting that Catherine is not a “weak-minded woman.”
Morris has taken Aunt Penniman into his confidence, or at least has claimed that he has. Dr. Sloper is suspicious of Morris’s account of himself and by now is convinced that he is merely exploiting Catherine. Aunt Penniman says that he continues to underestimate Catherine, and he certainly does appear to discount Catherine’s agency.
Themes
Gaining Independence Theme Icon
Class, Wealth, and Social Status Theme Icon
Reason, Romanticism, and Blind Spots Theme Icon
Women’s Limited Freedoms Theme Icon