Authors & Events
Look Inside | Reading Guide
Oct 08, 2002
| ISBN 9780375761225
Feb 05, 2013
| ISBN 9780307961426
Nov 01, 2000
| ISBN 9780679641575
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Oct 08, 2002 | ISBN 9780375761225
Feb 05, 2013 | ISBN 9780307961426
Nov 01, 2000 | ISBN 9780679641575
Washington Square follows the coming-of-age of its plain-faced, kindhearted heroine, Catherine Sloper. Much to her father’s vexation, a handsome opportunist named Morris Townsend woos the long-suffering heiress, intent on claiming her fortune. When Catherine stubbornly refuses to call off her engagement, Dr. Sloper forces Catherine to choose between her inheritance and the only man she will ever truly love. Cynthia Ozick, in her Introduction to what she calls Henry James’s “most American fiction,” writes that “every line, every paragraph, every chapter [of Washington Square] is a fleet-footed light brigade, an engine of irony.” Precise and understated, this charming novel endures as a matchless study of New York in the mid-nineteenth century.
Washington Square is one of Henry James’s most appealing and popular novels, with the most straightforward plot and style of any of his works. Set in the genteel New York of James’s early childhood, it is a tale of cruelty laced with comedy. Dr. Austin Sloper is a wealthy and domineering father who is disappointed in the unremarkable daughter he has produced; he dismisses her as both plain and simpleminded. The gentle and dutiful Catherine Sloper has always been in awe of her father, but when she falls in love with Morris Townsend, a penniless charmer whom Dr. Sloper accuses of being a fortune hunter, she dares to defy him and a battle of wills ensues that will leave her forever changed. Readers have long admired the way that the innocent Catherine, misled by her meddling aunt and mistreated by both her father and her lover, grows in strength and wisdom over the course of her ordeal.
‘Washington Square is perhaps the only novel in which a man has successfully invaded the feminine field and produced work comparable to Jane Austen’s,’ said Graham Greene. Inspired by a story Henry James heard at a dinner party, Washington Square tells how the rakish but idle Morris Townsend tries to win the heart of heiress Catherine Sloper against the objections of her father. Precise and understated, the book endures as a matchless social study of New York in the mid-nineteenth century.‘Washington Square has long been beloved by almost all readers,’ noted Louis Auchincloss. ‘The chief beauty of the novel lies in its expression–by background, characterization, and dialogue–of its mild heroine’s mood of long-suffering patience. Everything is ordered, polite, still: the charming old square in the pre-brownstone city, the small, innocent, decorous social gatherings, the formal good manners, the quaint reasonableness of the dialogues. . . . James was the poet of cities: New York in Washington Square.’ Clifton Fadiman agreed: ‘It has extraordinary charm, deriving from an almost Mozartian combination of sweetness and depth.’
Henry James was born on April 15, 1843, on Washington Place in New York to the most intellectually remarkable of American families. His father, Henry James Sr., was a brilliant and eccentric religious philosopher; his brother was one of the… More about Henry James
“Henry James is as solitary in the history of the novel as Shakespeare is in the history of poetry.” —Graham Greene
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