Washington Square Chapters 13 and 14 Summary and Analysis
by Henry James

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Chapters 13 and 14 Summary and Analysis

Dr. Sloper reports his conversations with Morris and Catherine to his sister, Mrs. Almond. He believes that he is adept enough at estimating people that he is positive Catherine will give up Morris. Mrs. Almond says that Morris may be the one case in which Dr. Sloper fails. Dr. Sloper does not think so, but he will give the young man the benefit of the doubt. He will go to talk to Morris’s sister, Mrs. Montgomery, to get another opinion of his character. Mrs. Almond believes that Mrs. Montgomery will stand up for her brother, especially in light of such a financially lucrative marriage. Dr. Sloper insists that if she stands up for him because of the money, then she would be a deceptive person and he will spot it.

Mrs. Almond asks how Catherine is holding up. Dr. Sloper replies that, as always, she is complacent. Mrs. Almond is amazed that she is not making a scene. Mrs. Penniman, however, is making a scene enough for both of them. Dr. Sloper knows that Mrs. Penniman will stand on the side of Morris, but he is not concerned.

Dr. Sloper goes to visit Mrs. Montgomery at her small, modest home on Second Avenue. Dr. Sloper notes that, inside and outside, it is neatly kept but cheaply adorned. Mrs. Montgomery herself is almost identical to her house in description. Dr. Sloper does not waste time and quickly states his reason for visiting, bluntly telling her that he has come to learn the truth about Morris’s character. He apologizes for being frank, stating that it is simply out of concern for his daughter. Mrs. Montgomery is equally concerned about the engagement, since so much depends on it, especially for Catherine. Dr. Sloper feels justified in hearing of her concern for Catherine as Morris’s wife. Dr. Sloper presents the situation to Mrs. Montgomery: Catherine now has ten thousand dollars a year from the estate left her by her mother. At her father’s death, Catherine will gain an additional twenty thousand. However, Dr. Sloper tells Mrs. Montgomery that, should Catherine marry Morris, Catherine will not see a penny of the twenty thousand. He is adamant, even if his daughter should pine away.

When Mrs. Montgomery asks Dr. Sloper why he dislikes Morris so, he tells her the same thing he told Morris—that he likes him as an individual, but not as a son-in-law. He is completely inadequate as a provider, and Dr. Sloper believes he is marrying Catherine for her money. Mrs. Montgomery marvels that Dr. Sloper has discovered already that Morris is selfish. Dr. Sloper jumps on this confession and presses Mrs. Montgomery for more information, observing that Morris must have made his sister’s life difficult. Mrs. Montgomery reluctantly agrees. Dr. Sloper also discovers that Morris’s claim to being the children’s tutor so that Mrs. Montgomery is spared the expense of school is limited to teaching them Spanish. Out of pity, Dr. Sloper offers Mrs. Montgomery some money to provide for herself, should she have to support Morris for some time to come. As Dr. Sloper leaves, Mrs. Montgomery begs him not to let his daughter marry Morris.

Whatever else can be said of Dr. Austin Sloper, it must be admitted that he is consistently honest and straightforward. He makes no outward effort of manipulation. He leads people to the point that they reveal their own inconsistencies and flaws. It is for this reason that the people who love him, such as his sisters and his daughter, fear him so much.

Still reflecting the disinterested nature of a scientist, Dr. Sloper states that though he is sure of the nature of his subjects and of the ultimate outcome, he will continue to let Morris have the benefit of the doubt. He will go to inquire of Morris’s sister. Mrs. Almond, in a cynicism that matches her brother’s, believes that Mrs. Montgomery will of course side with her brother, especially with so much money at stake. Tellingly, Dr. Sloper states that women are not necessarily so fond of brothers. Ironically, he is speaking to his...

(The entire section is 1,081 words.)