Washington Square Questions and Answers
by Henry James

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What is the theme of Washington Square by Henry James?

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Home and hearth is another important theme in the story. The home is supposed to be a place of warmth and domestic bliss, yet Dr. Sloper's fashionable home in well-to-do Washington Square becomes a scene of treachery and subversion, a place where he no longer feels welcome on account of his daughters's actions. What had previously been an impregnable fortress has been invaded and destroyed by outside forces—namely Morris, ably assisted by Sloper's daughters, Catherine and Lavinia.

Catherine, for instance, insists on entertaining Morris, her gold-digging charlatan of a suitor, in her father's parlor, thus inadvertently undermining her father's patriarchal authority in the home. As for Lavinia, she provides Morris with access to Dr. Sloper's study, his inner sanctum, while her father's away visiting Europe for a year. Once again, this is a direct assault on...

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