Washington Square Chapter 35 Summary and Analysis
by Henry James

Start Your Free Trial

Download Washington Square Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Chapter 35 Summary and Analysis

Mrs. Penniman does not bring up the subject of Morris Townsend until one evening a week later. When asked if Catherine will be angry if the topic is brought up, Catherine replies that she will not be angry, but she will not like it. Mrs. Penniman has a message that she promised to deliver, and she must keep her promise. Catherine, angry after all, says she does not care what her aunt does with her promise. Mrs. Penniman says that Morris would like to come to visit Catherine so that he can explain his actions. Catherine states that there is no reason for him to come. Mrs. Penniman replies that Morris’s happiness depends on it. Catherine answers that hers, however, does not. Her aunt insists that Morris sincerely wants to justify himself in Catherine’s eyes with a complete explanation. She hardly finishes speaking with there is a ring at the door. Catherine realizes that her aunt has already invited Morris to the house. She is furious. Morris is introduced to the parlour.

Catherine sees that her former fiancé has indeed changed. He is not as slim as he used to be, his hair is thinning, and he has a long, perfumed beard that spreads across his chest. Yet she can see in his eyes the man she used to know, and it gives her great pain. She realizes how old she has grown, how much time has passed, how she has moved beyond Morris, but not beyond the pain he caused her. She cannot bring herself to ask him to sit down, so he asks her if she would not sit. Catherine does not think it is a good idea.

Morris asks Catherine if he has offended her by coming. Catherine replies that he should not have come. He wants to be friends again rather than enemies. She denies that they are enemies, but they cannot be friends. He offers to go away if she gives him leave to come again. She tells him not to come again. Morris states that they have waited so long, and now they are free. Catherine reminds him of how badly he treated her. He justifies his actions by stating that he left her to the quiet life with her father that he did not feel he had a right to deny her. He asks her if she will forgive him. Catherine responds that she forgave him years ago, but she cannot forget. She cannot simply begin where they left off. He points out that she did not marry when she had several opportunities. She tells him again that it was unnecessary for him to come. He leaves.

In the hallway he encounters Mrs. Penniman, who is anxiously awaiting the outcome with the same spirit of interference that she did twenty years previously. Morris is angry with the elderly lady for involving him in a plan that was evidently all her idea. Mrs. Penniman asks if he will come back, to which he replies, “Come back? Damnation!” and then leaves. Catherine, meanwhile, takes up her handiwork, seemingly for the rest of her life.

In the final chapter, it is revealed that only Catherine has changed in any measure. Mrs. Penniman continues to be interfering and delusional when it comes to her ability to bring people together. Knowing Catherine’s wishes concerning Morris Townsend, she blatantly goes against those wishes by inviting Morris to the house on Washington Square to Catherine. Catherine is reminded once again how “dangerous” her aunt is in her manipulations of other people’s lives. She manipulates Morris as much as she manipulates Catherine. Catherine’s distrust of her aunt has lingered over the ensuing two decades and is reignited easily by Mrs. Penniman’s plan to get Morris and Catherine together after all. Catherine has refused to move into a smaller home for the simple reason that to do so would put her in proximity to a woman who is too much in her life...

(The entire section is 1,017 words.)