Washington Square by Henry James

I added Washington Square to my project fill in the gaps list because I wanted to read something by Henry James and this had an intriguing synopsis and was a little shorter than some of his other books. I read it a few days ago to get in some last minute classic reading before the end of the year. I’m glad I did! This was a quick and overall enjoyable read.

Washington Square by Henry James

So, Catherine Sloper is the main character and is perfectly ordinary in every way. Seriously, the way her dad describes her is pretty tragic. Take these gems:

“She was not ugly; she had simply a plain, dull, gentle countenance.”

“…affectionate, docile, obedient, and much addicted to speaking the truth.”

“She was not abnormally deficient…”

“Dr. Sloper would have liked to be proud of his daughter; but there was nothing to be proud of in poor Catherine.”

I mean, ouch! Of course, now that I’ve established that he is fairly mean? I have to admit that I pretty much agree with him. The woman is a little…shall we say…beige. (Do y’all use that expression for plain people? Maybe it’s just me.)

Anyway, once Washington Square has adequately established how uninteresting Catherine is, a love interest is thrown in. Morris Townsend starts expressing interest, and Dr. Sloper is pretty sure he is a fortune hunter. (The only thing not plain about Catherine are the money bags she will inherit.) Is he or isn’t he is the question of the day, and what basically the entire book dances around.

Dr. Sloper’s widowed sister, Mrs. Penniman, adds several interesting twists. She is more than happy to stick her meddling nose into the situation every chance she gets. From encouraging Catherine to see Morris behind her disapproving father’s back to trying to convince Morris that they should elope – she stays fairly busy throughout the entirety of Washington Square.

You guys, I think this book would be fantastic for melodramatic high school girls that are convinced their parents are out to ruin their lives. It is so angsty in that I’m-in-love-for-the-first-time-but-am-forbidden-to-see-him way. Catherine is so torn between wanting to obey and respect her father and wanting to marry Morris. Oh the drama. Kind of hard to respect or sympathize though, because she wouldn’t just MAKE UP HER MIND ALREADY.

As for Dr. Sloper? I think I am officially old because I totally related more with him than Catherine. He knew (or thought he knew, anyway) what kind of crappy person Morris was so he set his foot down in the beginning and never wavered – no Catherine cannot marry him and no, she can’t even speak to him. He even took her on a year long trip to Europe to distract her! Also, he cracked me up because he thought the whole situation was fairly hilarious since he didn’t really care much about Catherine to begin with.

Anyways, things finally do get decided one way or another and the story more or less wraps up. Just don’t expect a very satisfying ending, because you won’t be getting one! Regardless, I overall enjoyed reading Washington Square. It didn’t take very long and I was amused by the whole situation.

To Sum it Up:

  • There isn’t really anything outstanding about the novel, but I still consider reading it time well spent.
  • The romantic melodrama and parental interference angst is perfectly suited for teenage girls.
  • Is he or isn’t he? You’ll spend a lot of time wondering whether or not Morris Townsend is a loser.

Check out Washington Square by Henry James on Goodreads / Amazon

Other Reviews:
Eclectic Indulgence
Park Benches & Book Ends
Book Clutter
The Reading Life
A Literary Oddessey

{ 1 comment… add one }

  • Bookworm1858 December 8, 2012, 4:03 pm

    Have you seen The Heiress with Olivia de Havilland and Montgomery Clift? It’s based on this book and I freaking adore it (um…maybe more than the book itself…) Highly recommended!
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