Washington Square Chapters 21 and 22 Summary and Analysis
by Henry James

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Chapters 21 and 22 Summary and Analysis

Dr. Sloper visits Mrs. Almond, the sister who is most in sympathy with his personality and worldview. He remarks again that he thinks that Catherine will indeed “stick.” Yet in this case he means that she is going to wait. He is not sure if, in the end, she will decide to marry Morris Townsend, but at the moment she is fulfilling his expectations of waiting. Mrs. Almond is bothered by his seeming disinterestedness in the happiness of his own daughter. The siblings discuss whether the word cling is a better term than stick concerning Catherine’s current behavior. Dr. Sloper discusses the possibility of taking Catherine to Europe, ostensibly to “polish her up.” Mrs. Almond doubts that Catherine will forget Morris, but Dr. Sloper says that in fact Morris may forget Catherine.

Mrs. Penniman arranges to meet Morris once again outside the door of a church she does not attend (her own church is sure to gossip if she met him there). Morris is clearly out of patience with Mrs. Penniman and is rather blunt. She tells him that she has no further news concerning Catherine, only that she herself may be out on the streets due to her confrontation with her brother. Mrs. Penniman also informs Morris that she has changed her mind and recommends that he wait before marrying Catherine. Morris is contemptuous of Mrs. Penniman’s wavering opinions and informs her that he and Catherine have already agreed to get married as soon as possible. Mrs. Penniman does an about-face and expresses great delight. Morris is vague about the date of the marriage, only of Catherine’s agreement to it. He states that it would be awkward now to back out of it as Mrs. Penniman suggests. Mrs. Penniman tells him that, such is Catherine’s love for him, he may do anything and she will agree.

The narrator then reveals the true workings of Morris Townsend’s mind. He is clearly after Catherine for her money. He knows that the ten thousand dollars a year that Catherine has received from her mother would be adequate, yet he values himself as a much higher commodity. Catherine, however, is not aware that he is playing with her. She is more concerned at the moment with her relationship with her father.

Dr. Sloper has ceased communicating with his daughter, even to the point of ignoring her existence. Catherine’s sense of honor is bothering her, forcing her to realize that if she is not going to follow the wishes of her father, she should no longer live under his roof and provision. It is mostly for this reason that she is contemplating a speedy marriage to Morris.

Catherine at last gathers enough courage to speak to her father. She tells him that she and Morris will soon be married. Dr. Sloper responds, but states that the matter can scarcely be any concern of his. Catherine is hurt. Later, after some consideration, Dr. Sloper proposes the trip to Europe to her, saying that he would “like” her to join him. Catherine is overjoyed that he still desires her company, so she agrees, knowing that this will separate her from Morris for six months. She tells her father that she will inform Morris of her impending departure. Dr. Sloper replies that he hopes that Morris will give his consent. Catherine is bothered by this, seeing its implication that her father has given up all duties to her as a father. She mentions her idea that she should not live with him if she cannot obey him. Dr. Sloper realizes that he has underestimated his daughter’s character, but he tells her that this idea is in “very bad taste.”

The revelation of Morris’s thoughts takes away any doubts as to his true character. He is clearly lazy but desirous of a better life than he himself is willing to work for. His interest in Catherine is not just for her money, since ten thousand dollars a year will still allow him the freedom of not earning any money himself, but for the lifestyle to which he wants to become accustomed. Ten thousand dollars will not provide for this. He values...

(The entire section is 1,130 words.)