Washington Square: Chapter 10,11,12
Summary – Chapters Nine, Ten, Eleven and Twelve
The Slopers regularly visit the Almond home on a Sunday evening and this happens on the Sunday following the conversation at the end of Chapter Eight. Dr Sloper withdraws to talk to his brother-in-law in the library and when he returns to the main group after 20 minutes he sees other guests have arrived and these include Morris, and he is sitting with Catherine.
The Doctor later decides to talk to him, to not condemn him too readily, and asks about how he is looking for a position. The Doctor notes his impudence (in terms of double meanings) but asks if he would object to leaving New York. Morris says he cannot do that as he has ties and responsibilities. He says he is also an ‘amateur tutor’ to his nephews and nieces. The conversation ends with the Doctor saying he will keep an eye out for him for a position.
Before he leaves, the Doctor tells Mrs Almond he would like to meet Mrs Montgomery and she says she will try to manage it. At the same time, Morris asks Catherine to meet him tomorrow or the day after and she looks at him with frightened eyes and asks him to come to the house. He says he cannot as her father has insulted him. He explains he has taunted him with his poverty and laughed at him for having no position. He asks to meet her in the Square and she repeats that she wants him to come to her home.
She receives him at home the next day in Chapter Ten and within a few days he tells her he loves her and kisses her. She says they must talk to her father and she will do it that night and he will do so the day after.
He thanks her for talking to her father first and says he will need all her powers of persuasion, but adds that she is ‘irresistible’. He warns her that her father will call him a ‘mercenary’ and she says she will defend him. She asks him abruptly if he is sure he loves her. He asks if she can doubt it. In turn he asks if she can tell him something: if her father is dead set against him and forbids their marriage, will she still be ‘faithful’? She murmurs his name and puts her hand in his.
In Chapter Eleven, she talks to her father in his study that evening and tells him she is engaged to be married. He is startled as this ‘accomplished fact’ is more than he expected, but betrays no surprise. He questions her and says he (Morris) ought to have told him about it. He goes on to say he does not like the engagement. He refutes her point that he thinks Morris is a mercenary and says the main thing he knows about him is that he has led a life of ‘dissipation’ ‘and has spent a fortune of his own in doing so’. He says that because of this there is every reason to suppose he would do the same with hers.
She defends Morris and says this is not the principal thing they know about him as he is ‘kind, and generous, and true’ and the fortune he spent ‘was very small’. The Doctor laughs and says this is all the more reason that he should not have spent it. At the end of the conversation, he says he will see Mr Townsend tomorrow and in the mean time he does not want her to mention that she is engaged.
Morris comes to see the Doctor the next day in Chapter Twelve and the Doctor loses no time in telling him he should have given him notice of his intentions before events had come this far. Morris replies that he would if he had not let his daughter have so much liberty. It seems to him, he says, that she is ‘quite her own mistress’.
They talk further and the Doctor says how he does not approve of the engagement and Morris says he had the idea he did not like him because he is poor. The Doctor says this sounds harsh, but adds that it is ‘about the truth’. He also reveals that ‘in any other capacity’ he is prepared to like him, but abominates him as a son-in-law and says he is in the ‘wrong category’.
Morris assures him and gives him the word of a gentleman that he is not a mercenary. The Doctor refers again to him being in the wrong category. Morris is disappointed and admits to having been wild in the past and has spent his own money. On being asked, he says he is now living on ‘the remnants’ of his property.
They talk on and Morris loses his self-control and asks the Doctor if he is sure his daughter will give him up. The Doctor says he is not sure but thinks it is possible. Morris makes it clear that he will not give up on her and the Doctor says he will ‘strongly urge’ her to break with him. Morris says ‘she has gone too far’ now to retreat.
Analysis – Chapters Nine, Ten, Eleven and Twelve
The conversation between Morris and the Doctor is a means for further exploring the antagonism between them. It also allows us to see the Doctor’s method of categorizing and condemning those he sees as not fitting into the right and wrong category. This form of typology depends on a strict hierarchical view, and although he may be correct in his understanding of Morris, it is problematic that he condemns him for his class rather than lack of love for Catherine.