Washington Square

Washington Square

by Henry James

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The plot of Washington Square has the simplicity of old-fashioned melodrama: a plain-looking, good-hearted young woman, the only child of a rich widower, is pursued by a charming but unscrupulous man who seeks the wealth she will presumably inherit. On this premise, Henry James constructed one of his most memorable novels, a story in which love is answered with betrayal and loyalty leads inexorably to despair."

-- from the Introduction by Peter Conn

In Washington Square (1880), Henry James reminisces about the New York he had known thirty years before as he tells the story of Catherine Sloper and her fortune-seeking suitor Morris Townsend. This perceptively drawn human drama is James' most accessible work and an enduring literary triumph.

Washington Square Press' Enriched Classics present the great works of world literature enhanced for the contemporary reader. This edition of Washington Square has been prepared by Peter Conn, Andrea Mitchell Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania. It includes his introduction, notes, selection of critical excerpts, and suggestions for further reading as well as a unique visual essay of period illustrations and photographs.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781451686807
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: 03/08/2016
Series: Enriched Classics
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 894,865
File size: 5 MB

About the Author

Henry James was born in 1843 in New York and died in London in 1916. In addition to many short stories, plays, books of criticism, autobiography and travel, he wrote some twenty novels, the first published being Roderick Hudson (1875). They include The Europeans, Washington Square, The Portrait of a Lady, The Bostonians, The Princess Casamassima, The Tragic Muse, The Spoils of Poynton, The Awkward Age, The Wings of the Dove, The Ambassadors and The Golden Bowl.

Date of Birth:

April 15, 1843

Date of Death:

February 28, 1916

Place of Birth:

New York, New York

Place of Death:

London, England


Attended school in France and Switzerland; Harvard Law School, 1862-63

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Excerpted from "Washington Square"
by .
Copyright © 2007 Philip Horne.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Lorna Raver doesn't just read this book; she inhabits it." —-AudioFile

Reading Group Guide

1. 1. Henry James creates an atypical heroine in the plain-faced, dull-witted Catherine Sloper. Endeavoring to be a dutiful daughter, Catherine bears her predicament with an almost unbelievable passivity. Compare her strategy of obedience and patience with her aunt’s advice to her: “You must act my dear; in your situation, the great thing is to act.” Describe how Catherine both contradicts and coincides with your perception of a literary heroine.

2. 2. Dr. Sloper controls Catherine largely with his ironic tongue and cold sense of humor. Discuss Dr. Sloper’s reason for disliking Morris Townsend and his motive for continually objecting to Catherine’s engagement–are they one and the same, or does Dr. Sloper have another aim in seeing if Catherine “will stick.” Consider his belief that life had “played him a trick” in giving him a plain daughter, and also the language of gaming that he constantly uses when drolly referring to Catherine’s predicament.

3. 3. Examine James’s use of setting as the plot progresses and its effect upon his characters’ behavior. Compare specifically the quaintly upholstered sitting room at Washington Square, the seedy oyster bar, and the dark precipice in the Alps. Why does Dr. Sloper “flare out” in the ungoverned setting and admit that he is “not a very good man”?

4. 4. Cynthia Ozick refers to the theme of impersonation in the novel. Explain how Catherine, Dr. Sloper, Aunt Lavinia, and Morris Townsend figure as imposters. Who in the novel is the opposite: straightforward and real?

5. 5. Aunt Lavinia’s meddling goes from innocent prying to treachery. Describe her attitude toward Morris Townsend and her refusal to admit his shortcomings. Is her love for him romantic, friendly, motherly? Consider whether she could ever have been happy in her own marriage to the reverend.

6. 6. Determine who is the greater villain in the novel: Dr. Sloper or Morris Townsend. Do you think Catherine is better off as a coldly dignified spinster, or could she have found happiness as Morris Townsend’s wife? As Cynthia Ozick asks in her Introduction, “Will a wrong motive always do harm?”

Customer Reviews

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Washington Square 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 24 reviews.
IMBEdison More than 1 year ago
Read this classic book many years ago, and saw the Broadway play version twive (called "The Heiress"). But book reads as freshly as if it were just written.
darcicat More than 1 year ago
One of the worst free book copies - This is what the first sentence looks like. "Ddbing a portion of the lint half of the present century, and more particularly dnr-I ing the latter part of it, there flourished and >>, practised in the city X I of New York a phy-1 I sician who enjoyed I perhaps..." Spend 99 cents.
markbstephenson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
HJ himself didn't much care for this but lots of his readers (including me) emphatically disagree. This was also made into a terrific movie with Olivia DeHavilland as Catherine Sloper and Ralph Richardson and Montgomery Clift as the bad guys. (The Heiress, 1949)
natumi.s on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Rich people live in Washington Square.This story is about one rich woman and poor man.After I read this story, I felt sad.But,I wonder if Moriss actually loves Catherine.I think that rich people is not always happy.
kawayu on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Catherine Sloper is this story's heroine.She is an ordinary girl and not beautiful,not wise.She falls in love with Morris Townsend.But her father who is doctor and rich neve admit marriage of two because he thinks that Morris wants Catherine's money.I thought this story is so simple and common.There have been no sudden changes to last from start.It is interesting to read feeling each other like this book.So I think it is too short and brevity to read like that.But I may have not ability to read so much.
Nickki on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Catherine is rich gils, she will have a lot of money when father dies.One day she met a guy who name is Morris. He soon said he wants to marry her, but her fatherdoubt that Morris just want her money, not love. This story makes me to think about love. But I don't understand Morris thought.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great story but this free copy is full of typos and extremely hard to read, with missing letters in words and randomly inserted numbers and punctuation marks. Poor quality.
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Long time no see, 'seth'.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I guess so.