Washington Square, published in 1881, is an unusual novel for Henry James in that he located its setting in the United States. By that time, James rarely made trips back to the land of his birth, but he had yet to forsake it completely, as he did prior to his death by becoming a British subject. The novel's main theme, however, is a familiar one: the tale of a life unlived. Catherine Sloper is cursed with what was often fatal in New York society of the time: she had plain looks and little personality to compensate. Yet she did have considerable wealth, or at least the prospects of it after the death of her father. For this reason Morris Townsend, a man of shadowy background, finds her an easy target for gold digging. He begins a courtship that he believes will go smoothly because it is unlikely that he has any present or future competition. He also has an annoying ally in the person of Mrs. Penniman, Catherine’s aunt. Mrs. Penniman rejoices in the chance to play matchmaker, living out her own romantic fantasies through the lives of Morris and her niece. Catherine quickly falls for the attractive and attentive Morris Townsend, but meets with opposition from her father, the distinguished physician Dr. Austin Sloper. Dr. Sloper controls his home like a kingdom centered on the fashionable Washington Square district of New York City, and he sees Morris as an evil interloper intent on using Catherine to gain access to a better lifestyle. The machinations of Morris, Mrs. Penniman, and Dr. Sloper form the vehicle by which the character of the weak yet surprisingly independent Catherine is developed. In the end, as Dr. Sloper’s fears prove justified, Catherine emerges even stronger than before, frustrating the plans of her father, her aunt, and even her fiancé.