In Putt's book Henry James: A Readers Guide, he speaks in a chapter about Washington Square. Within this chapter he goes over the role that Catherine plays in the story. She ultimately chooses spinsterhood, and not to defy her father, and to be the good daughter. The theme of avoidance o f marriage, spinsterhood, is something that is focused on by James in much of his work (Putt 46). Putt dwells on the fact that the father was a cruel man, and gives extraneously long quotes from James's original text to make a small point. I think that this author would have been much more effective if he would have narrowed down his thought in this chapter. Putt touches on a lot of things concerning Washington Square, such as the intrusion of the narrator, in the second person no less, and the analysis of the novel by some Doctors out in the field. It seemed to me that Putt could have been more successful by keeping it short and sweet, and not giving brief synopsis of the entire novel. The novel, Washington Square, Putt says in this chapter, is not even long enough to be considered a novel. Please tell me why. Putt offers no explanation as to why he believes this is so, and really should not have put in his own two cents anyway. Once again this jump in topic indicates a real strain to try to keep up with the subject that the author wishes to discus. He asks more questions than he answers and to me that was very frustrating.
If Putt was really trying to be objective, he could at least have gotten the answers he sought so that the rest of us would not have to ponder the answer for him. Putt seemed to me to be very critical of this work of James, although he does not deny that this is definitely one of James's best pieces. ...
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... speaking of Morris Townsend's selfishness, both the doctor and Mrs. Montgomery admit that everyone is selfish. But the doctor proceeds to admit that he does not hide it well (one assumes the doctor does a much better job hiding his selfishness), and Dr. Sloper then admits to looking past Morris as a person: "You see I am helped by a habit I have of dividing people into classes, into types. I may easily be mistaken about your brother as an individual, but his type is written on his whole person" (James 87).
This admission shows that Dr. Sloper's sense of Morris Townsend's character is biased and prejudice. Therefore there is no dichotomy in Dr. Sloper, and the novel does prove to be morally simple.
Hall, Donald. Afterword. Washington Square. By Henry James. New York: Penguin, 1979.
James, Henry. Washington Square. New York: Penguin, 1979.
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- Henry James' Washington Square
- Elizabeth Hardwick's Criticism of Washington Square
- Feminist Re-reading of Henry James's Washington Square
- The Dismal Washington Square, by Henry James
- Relationship of Washington Square to Henry James's Other Novels
- Bette Howland's Criticism of Henry James's Washington Square