Washington Square, Paperback Book
2.5 out of 5 (2 ratings)


Introduction and Notes by Ian F.A. Bell, Professor of English Literature, University of Keele. Washington Square marks the culmination of James's apprentice period as a novelist.

With sharply focused attention upon just four principal characters, James provides an acute analysis of middle-class manners and behaviour in the New York of the 1870's, a period of great change in the life of the city.

This change is explored through the device of setting the novel's action during the 1840s, similarly a period of considerable turbulence as the United States experienced the onset of rapid commercial and industrial expansion. Through the relationships between Austin Sloper, a celebrated physician, and his sister Lavinia Penniman, his daughter Catherine, and Catherine's suitor, Morris Townsend, James observes the contemporary scene as a site of competing styles and performances where authentic expression cannot be articulated or is subject to suppression.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Wordsworth Editions Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • ISBN: 9781840224276

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Review by

Morris and Catherine love with each other . But Catherine's father does not like Morris .I think sometimes parents should not say " No. " for their children's love .Of course , maybe parents love their children . So they are worried about their children.But everyone has each personality .So I hope love of Morris and Catherine is congraturated by everyone .

Review by

My second book by James and I still remain unimpressed when comparing him to Lawrence, Hardy or the Brontë sisters. Even to Austen.I know he writes about different times, different places and with different aims, but even though I appreciate his correct and composed style, I miss the passionate accounts of other classic authors.In "Washington Square" the setting takes place in the late XIXth New York where we are introduced to the Sloper family, consisting basically of the well respected and intelligent Doctor Sloper, her humble daughter Catherine and a couple of her manipulative aunts. Our heroine is a dull girl, who lives under her father's wing, whose will is completely subjected by the Doctor's poor opinion of her. Dr. Sloper is always kind to her but at the same time he treats her as an inferior creature, not relying on her judgements or her opinions. He is domineering and strict. The biggest praise we hear about her is that she is "a modest and a quiet girl", meaning that she is gullible, submitted and patient. Not exactly as Hardy's Tess or Charlotte's Jane Eyre or Lawrence's Lady Chatterley. The plot is settled when a new character is introduced, a young suitor, Mr Townsend, who wins the girl affection on the spot, seeing an opportunity to get a large sum of money if he marries her.In the end, this book talks about a family conflict, as all the characters have their own interests and only the girl is earnest and innocent in her desires. She is trifled by everybody, by her own father and aunt and also by her lover. I was sorry to witness her endurance, passive self control when her future and happiness were being decided by everybody but herself.All in all, I would say that I enjoyed this story much more in retrospection than while reading it. The whole composition makes sense in the end, and I find it highly realistic, but my guts can't help but shouting out loud to condemn the way women are mistreated in this novel.I'll have to read more books by James to see if that's a "general" in all his works. I hope it's not.

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