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 Washington Square Study Guide (Choose to Continue)

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Washington Square: Metaphors

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The fancy-work that Catherine picks up at the end of the novel

The presence of this sewing may be interpreted as a symbol of Catherine’s wealthy, idle existence as she passes her time creating a decorative rather than essential piece of work. Alternatively, it may be read as an emblem of her industriousness.

 

It may also be understand as a sign that she is destined to be single, as she picks it up ‘again’ and so resumes the lifestyle she had before the final return of Morris Townsend.

 

The house at Washington Square

The address and the house itself represent a wealthy, upper-class lifestyle that Morris almost marries into.  He regards the house from outside as ‘devilish comfortable’ and he, like the readers, recognizes how it is both literally and metaphorically a sign of wealth, privilege and social standing.

 

It is perhaps telling of his character as well as the ‘devilish’ appeal of the house that he enjoys himself there so much when Dr Sloper and Catherine are away in Europe.

 

The profession of doctor

Bearing in mind that Dr Sloper is characterized by his use of irony and sarcasm, it is of note that he is understood by his sister Mrs Almond to be lacking in sympathy. He sees no disjuncture between his work and character, but this is left clear to the readers as he refuses to use the skills associated with the caring profession when he communicates with his daughter. We are asked to see that he is unable to spot irony when it is used against him, although he is critical of Catherine when she does not notice his use of double-edged speech. 




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