Washington Square: Chapter 6,7,8
Summary – Chapters Six, Seven and Eight
Morris returns five days later and they are not able to call Dr Sloper to meet him as he is out at the time. On Mrs Penniman’s insistence, Catherine sees him alone. The visit is a long one and Morris seems to be more at home this time. The respectful devotion in his eyes makes her think of a young knight in a poem. He talks about books and music and says he will sing for her some other time. She is pleased with the idea of seeing him again and knows this is all the more reason why she should tell her father he has been to see her.
Her father asks if he proposed to her today and this hurts her feelings. Instead of saying anything she gives a small laugh and her father thinks how she is ‘not brilliant’. No sooner does he think this than Catherine finds a response and says ‘perhaps he will do it next time’. Her father stares and wonders if she is serious.
He decides to ask Mrs Almond about Townsend and finds out that she knows very little. On his questioning, she tells him he has no profession and thinks he was once in the navy.
Mrs Almond goes on to tell her brother that he has never done Catherine justice and refers to how she has a prospect of $30,000 a year. With irony, he says how she at least appreciates her and points out that Catherine has never had any suitors and describes her as unattractive. Mrs Almond argues that the young men think Catherine is older than she is, because of her size and dress sense. She also says he might give Mr Townsend the benefit of the doubt. He asks how he lives, and if he lives off his widowed sister (Mrs Montgomery) and her five children. She says he should ask her and he replies he might do so.
Chapter Seven explains that although the Doctor has been enquiring about Townsend, he is more amused by the whole situation than anything else. He is also willing to give the young man ‘the benefit of every doubt’. He tells Mrs Penniman to invite him to dinner the next time he calls. This happens and two or three others are also invited so as to not give him too much encouragement.
The Doctor talks to him after the meal and sees he has ability and is ‘well turned out’, but does not like him. He keeps this to himself and thinks he (Morris) has the assurance of ‘the devil himself’. Later, Morris tells Catherine that her father does not like him and she says she will not mention him to her father. He replies that he would prefer her to say, ‘if my father doesn’t think well of you, what does it matter?’ She exclaims that it does matter, and he looks at her and smiles.
Mrs Almond and the Doctor talk about Morris again and he says if Catherine is in love with him she must get over it as he is ‘no gentleman’. He also says he is ‘too familiar’ and is a ‘plausible coxcomb’. Mrs Almond says that Catherine has to see this too and he says he will present her with a pair of spectacles.
Morris continues to visit Catherine in Chapter Eight and Catherine does not tell her father about it. These visits quickly become ‘the most important, the most absorbing thing in her life’.
After some time passes, the Doctor asks Mrs Penniman to let him know about these visits. She goes on to tell him about her interest in Morris and how it is his ‘misfortunes’ that hold her attention. He asks what they are and she says she thinks she should not repeat them and he will tell him himself if he listens with kindness. The Doctor laughs and says he will request him ‘very kindly’ to leave Catherine alone. Mrs Penniman says she thinks Morris is sincere in his admiration for Catherine and as they talk further she says Morris has been wild in the past and his sister is not ‘attractive’.
The Doctor queries this criticism of the woman Morris lives upon and says, ‘the position of husband of a weak-minded woman with a large fortune would suit him to perfection’. Mrs Penniman questions his view of Catherine and moves ‘majestically’ away.
Analysis – Chapters Six, Seven and Eight
Mrs Penniman’s growing attachment to Morris is highlighted in these chapters as she explains with apparent bias about Morris’s ‘misfortunes’. Catherine is similarly besotted as his visits become ‘the most important, the most absorbing thing in her life’. It is as though Morris has become the cipher for galvanizing both Catherine and Mrs Penniman as the speed with which they are drawn to him is barely explained by the few qualities he exhibits. Mrs Penniman is certainly influenced by the romantic ideals she holds on to and her talk of Morris’s ‘wild past’ demonstrate her partiality for him and the Byronic hero she sees him as.