Washington Square: Chapter 13,14,15
Summary – Chapters Thirteen, Fourteen and Fifteen
The Doctor tells Mrs Almond that in 19 out of 20 cases he has estimated people correctly in his work and she says it is possible that Mr Townsend is the 20th. He says to make sure he will talk to Mrs Montgomery and thinks she will tell him he has done the right thing. If she proves him wrong, he will beg Mr Townsend’s pardon. He will write her a letter and ask leave to come and see her. Mrs Almond queries this and says she will defend her brother whatever he may be and this is especially so as there is the question of $30,000 a year coming in to the family.
In Chapter Fourteen, the Doctor is invited to Mrs Montgomery’s home after writing to her. He talks about the engagement and she says she knows he does not like it or Morris. He explains that Catherine has $10,000 a year from her mother and if she marries a man he approves of he will double this on his death.
She asks timidly about what will happen if Morris marries and he says Morris will be the master of the $10,000 a year but he (Dr Sloper) will leave his money to his nieces and nephews. She then asks why he dislikes Morris so much and he says he dislikes him ‘exclusively’ as a son-in-law. He does not think he will be a ‘protector and caretaker’ of his child and also thinks his child is ‘singularly ill-adapted to take care of herself’. Morris also strikes him as ‘selfish and shallow’.
He expands his point and says he is of the category of young men that do nothing for themselves if they can get other people to do it for them. He adds that he thinks her brother has lived off her and she says she has not complained of this. She also says it is in her interests for him to marry someone rich. The Doctor replies that he wishes she would come to him with her difficulties and if she allows him he will place ‘a certain fund’ in her hands for the support of her brother.
She says she ought to be offended and he argues that she will see his point of view when her daughters are older. She defends Morris’s moral character and bursts into tears when the Doctor tries to get her to say that Morris is ‘abominably selfish’. The Doctor reminds her that this is all for Catherine and she will see what he means when she gets to know her. Mrs Montgomery brushes away her tears and says she would like to know her. In an instant, she says ‘don’t let her marry him!’
The Doctor is puzzled by Catherine’s passivity in Chapter Fifteen. She has not spoken to him since the scene in the library and she has not seen Morris either. She has written him a letter, though, and has begged him to not come to the house until she has ‘made up her mind’. Morris replies ‘with a passionate epistle’ and writes that she had already made up her mind weeks ago and asks if she is ‘throwing him off’. He also tells her of his interview with her father and this diverges from the one ‘offered in these pages’ (in this novel). He says the Doctor was ‘terribly violent’. Catherine replies with a note of three lines and says ‘do not doubt my affection’ and asks him to let her wait and think.
Mrs Penniman wishes the plot to thicken and, therefore, advises Catherine to ‘do something striking’. Her real hope is that Catherine will make a secret marriage and she could be a ‘duenna’. Mrs Penniman is in daily contact with Morris and arranges to meet him at an oyster saloon she has only ever passed before. When he comes, he needs all his self-command to be ‘decently civil’.
Analysis – Chapters Thirteen, Fourteen and Fifteen
Mrs Penniman’s desire for the plot to thicken with more romantic intrigue acts as a catalyst in the relationship between Catherine and Morris. That she is driven by the hope of being present at their secret marriage demonstrates that she is disconnected from reality, and her brother’s wishes, and is caught up in the melodrama of her own imagination.
Conversely, Mrs Montgomery has been moved sufficiently by Dr Sloper to implore that her brother Morris should not marry Catherine. There are parallels of behavior here, as the siblings take the sides of the opposition, and this adds an element of farce to the drama that Mrs