Washington Square Chapters 25 and 26 Summary and Analysis
by Henry James

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Chapters 25 and 26 Summary and Analysis

The first person that Catherine meets on her return to New York is her aunt, Mrs. Penniman. Catherine is left feeling uncomfortable on learning that her aunt has spent so much time with Morris Townsend, much more than she herself has been with him since the two met. She does not feel jealous, but she is more aware than ever of her aunt’s fantasy of being a romantic savior. Morris has promised that he will not betray Mrs. Penniman to Dr. Sloper. Catherine learns that Morris has made himself at home in her father’s study, a situation with which she does not feel at all comfortable. But she is overjoyed to hear that her fiancé has found a position as a commission-merchant.

Catherine presents her aunt with the gift of a cashmere shawl, which her aunt promises to leave to Catherine’s firstborn daughter. Catherine’s remark that her aunt had better wait until that little girl has actually arrived causes Mrs. Penniman to be concerned that Catherine has weakened in her stance. Catherine insists, however, that she is still the same, as is her father, but even more so. Mrs. Penniman asks about “her little project,” meaning the plot that Morris devised in which Catherine will approach her father about changing his mind when he is surrounded by great and romantic works of art. Catherine confesses that she did not even try. She has accepted the fact that her father will not relent and has willingly given up any hope of the money from her father. Mrs. Penniman is concerned that she has given up so easily and suggests that Catherine wait and hope for her father to change. Catherine accuses her aunt of being capricious, since a year before she had counseled her to do the exact opposite.

Catherine tells her aunt that she has given up hope of pleasing her father. She has been as good as it is possible for any one person to be, but she has determined that her father has no respect for kindness, and thus is not worth any further concern from Catherine. She vows that she will never ask anything of her father ever again.

When Catherine meets Morris, he does not see her as much changed as did her aunt, who thought that Catherine looked actually “handsome.” On her part, Catherine is still struck by the beauty of her fiancé and has difficulty believing that he actually belongs to her. When she tells Morris that she has given up trying to please her father and has written off hope of remaining in his will, Morris suggests that he himself talk with Dr. Sloper. He is not yet ready to give up the inheritance that would come to Catherine. Catherine begs him not to because she has realized that her father despises her. She makes him promise that he will never despise her, which Morris finds an easy promise to make. Beyond that, however, he does nothing.

Catherine comes back changed, but not as her father had envisioned. She is stronger and more independent, less reliant on earning the approval of her father. She has discovered that her father is not worth the compromise that she must make to earn his love. Not only has she given up hope that he will relent in the matter of her marriage to Morris Townsend, but she vows never to take anything from him again. This causes both Mrs. Penniman and Morris to change their tactics and to advise her to wait.

Not only is Catherine now a disinherited daughter; she is also a much stronger and more independent individual. For this reason, both Morris and Mrs. Penniman find to their dismay that she is now beyond their manipulation. Mrs. Penniman discovers that, for all her interference and efforts, she has lost “control” of the relationship between Morris and Catherine. She can no...

(The entire section is 996 words.)