Catherine Sloper is a shy and rather unattractive young woman living with her father in a beautiful, big house on Washington Square. Her father is a prominent doctor who has refined tastes for food, wine, art, and nearly everything else. He is extremely intelligent and a keen judge of people. Mrs. Penniman is Dr. Sloper's widowed sister who lives with him and has been acting as a companion and confidante to Catherine for years. Mrs. Penniman is an extreme romanticist who is trying her best to get Catherine to be more outgoing and hopefully to get married. Morris Townsend is, as Dr. Sloper quickly realizes, an "idler" and a "fortune hunter." Townsend is handsome and charming. He easily gets Catherine to fall in love with him, but he is only interested in her money. She has an income of $10,000 a year and will inherit another $20,000 a year when her father dies. That was a great fortune in the mid-1800's. These four are the only important characters in the novel. It was made into a successful play titled The Heiress. And the play was later made into a classic movie titled The Heiress (1949), starring Olivia de Havilland, who won the Academy Award for Best Actress, and Montgomery Clift. The film is available on DVD and I highly recommend it.
Catherine, Dr. Sloper, Mrs. Penniman, and Morris Townsend. Dr. Sloper's sister, Mrs. Almond, and Townsend's sister, Mrs. Montgomery