Washington Square: Chapter 19,20,21

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Summary – Chapters Nineteen, Twenty and Twenty One

The next day the Doctor ‘advises’ Mrs Penniman to not help Catherine in being ‘treasonable’ and tells her high treason is a capital offence. She accuses him of speaking like an autocrat and he says he talks like his daughter’s father. He says he just wishes her to have no more contact with Townsend and she asks if he also wishes to murder his child. He says that on the contrary he wishes to make her happy. She says Catherine has had a dreadful night and he will kill her. He reminds her he is a doctor and that this will not happen, and she reminds him he has already lost two members of his family. He answers as such: ‘“It may not prevent me, either, from losing the society of still another.”’


Mrs Penniman sees Catherine later and although she was upset the night before she is now having breakfast. Her aunt remonstrates and says she should stay in bed for three days. Catherine says she could never do that and her aunt notes with annoyance that Catherine’s eyes show no trace of last night’s tears and asks what effect she thinks this will have on her father and how can she expect to move him.


The chapter ends with Catherine as she writes to Morris and requests him to come and see her the next day. She explains nothing and waits to talk to him face to face.


In Chapter Twenty, Morris comes to see Catherine as she asked and she talks to him in the front parlor. After embracing her, he tells her she has been very cruel and has made him very unhappy. They talk and he asks if she will marry him tomorrow. When she repeats ‘“tomorrow”’, he says ‘“next week”’ or anytime within the month and she asks if it is not better to wait. He accuses her of not being sincere and says she must choose between him and her father. He also says she cannot love him if she fears her father more than she loves him (Morris). He tells her Mrs Penniman recommended the idea of an immediate union.


She tells him her father’s message, that he will not give her any money if she marries him, and he snaps his fingers and tells her that he cares that much for what he has said about the inheritance.


He asks if a really clever woman in her place might win her father round at last. She does not hear this and thinks only of the notion of being disinherited and of her father’s withdrawal from her. She sees Morris as her refuge from the loneliness that has come over her and leans her head on his shoulder. He looks down at his ‘prize’ and calls her ‘“my dear good girl”’


The Doctor tells Mrs Almond in Chapter Twenty One that he thinks Catherine is ‘“going to stick”’ and explains he means he thinks she will not break down.  She says she is not surprised and he confesses he is. She says Catherine is ‘“steadfast”’.


He lets her know he is thinking of taking Catherine to Europe and will try to ‘“polish”’ her up. Mrs Almond says she will not forget Morris there and he says he (meaning Townsend) will forget her.


Mrs Penniman arranges another meeting with Morris and tells him she thinks she was too forward the other day and now advises him to ‘“watch and wait”’ rather than marry immediately. He tells her he thinks she is inconsistent and says how he has already asked Catherine to marry him. Her inconsistency shows further as she gives ‘a little jump of gratification’ at this news. She also says that Catherine loves him so much he may do anything. He asks what she means and she says he can postpone the marriage and Catherine will not think the worse of him. He says ‘“ah”’ rather dryly and escorts her home.


Analysis – Chapters Nineteen, Twenty and Twenty One

The influence of Mrs Penniman becomes clearer as Morris asks Catherine to marry him on her advice and is then annoyed with her when she backtracks and suggests he waits. The inconsistency that he notices is emphasized when she gives a jump for joy at the news he has proposed, even though she has just said she has changed her mind about this. Once more, an element of farce is drawn upon here as Catherine and Morris separately listen to Mrs Penniman, and are also annoyed when they fail to see that she is caught up in the story of a romance.

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