Washington Square Chapters 29 and 30 Summary and Analysis
by Henry James

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Chapters 29 and 30 Summary and Analysis

Morris Townsend continues to come to visit Catherine, but finds that Mrs. Penniman has not paved the way for him to break off his relationship with Catherine, and he is unable to do so on his own. He becomes increasingly frustrated with Mrs. Penniman’s failure to keep her promise to prepare Catherine, and is noticeably upset when he makes his final visit to Catherine. She asks if he is sick, to which he responds that he is not well. She fears that he is overworking himself. He replies that he must earn a living so that he does not give the appearance of living off of her. He is too proud, he says, but she must take him as he is. She is unconcerned about whether or not he earns sufficient money to dispel gossip, but he is not. Finally, he announces that he must go away on business. She states that she will go with him, which he says is unacceptable. He is going to New Orleans, and she might catch yellow fever. She becomes increasingly more insistent on coming with him, and he is even more adamant that she will not. She says that they have waited too long already, and he accuses her of making a scene, contrary to her promise. He then states that he will talk about it no more but will write her a letter. He has the idea of provoking a quarrel and thus making it easier to break off their engagement. Catherine seems reluctant to argue, however, so he carries it on by himself. At last he says he is leaving, promising, however, that he will come back.

Catherine is beside herself with misery. She cannot believe that he would actually leave permanently, that they have had a simple lovers’ quarrel. She tries to conceal her emotions. It works with her father, but with her aunt she is less successful. Mrs. Penniman is unaware of the details, but she knows that Morris has finally broken it off. She is filled with curiosity and continually asks Catherine what the matter is. Catherine replies repeatedly that nothing is the matter, but Mrs. Penniman begins a campaign of harassment until Catherine is pushed to the point of anger, a place she has never been known to have gone before. When Mrs. Penniman informs Dr. Sloper of this, he is ecstatic that what he had foretold has finally happened. Catherine avoids her aunt’s company, skipping church so that she can go to talk to Morris. However, she returns to find her aunt at home. Mrs. Penniman finally admits that she knew that Morris had planned to separate from her. Catherine is shocked that it was so final. She accuses her aunt of interfering so much that Morris grew tired of hearing Catherine’s name. When Catherine laments that Morris has left her alone, Mrs. Penniman reminds her that Catherine still has her. Catherine states that she cannot believe it.

Morris Townsend reveals himself finally as the weakling that he is. He has tried to get Mrs. Penniman to break up with Catherine for him, since he does not have the courage to do so himself. Yet she herself cannot seem to bring to an end the game that she has been playing for so long. In the end, Morris is left to manufacture an argument. He states that he must go away on business. Catherine, sensing the full import of this “business trip,” insists on going with him. She is desperately trying to prevent what she knows is coming, the ending of her relationship with Morris. While Morris pretends that he is merely concerned for her health in New Orleans, which is plagued with yellow fever, she sees his true intention of running away from her. Both manage to blow the argument out of proportion, each panicking in trying to either end or save the relationship.

Yet Catherine cannot quite admit to herself the seriousness of the break-up, though at heart she...

(The entire section is 1,014 words.)