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Washington Square Essay

932 words - 4 pages

Washington Square

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. This chapter would have been more helpful to me as a student reading James's Washington Square, if the author would have taken the novel more as a piece of literature not as a science project to be dissected for inspection.

In Donald Hall's Afterword of Washington Square, he argues that in spite of the limited number of characters and simplicity of plot, the novel still presents a complicated moral conflict. At the heart of this conflict is Dr. Sloper, "The moral force of this novel lies in the paradox of Dr. Sloper's wrong-rightness" (224). This paradox, of course, assumes that Dr. Sloper is not only right about Morris Townsend's intentions as primarily a fortune hunter who will bring unhappiness to Catherine, but also that Dr. Sloper is wrong to deny his daughter an inheritance based on her intentions to marry Morris Townsend. Assuming these two elements are present in the novel, the moral paradox indeed occurs and Mr....

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