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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Woman Before Her Time.
Washington Square by Henry James is a very well-written novel depicting the story of a woman caught in a time period where she is conflicted and tormented by both her father, a wealthy doctor, and her suitor, a good-looking man with little means of his own.
The main character, Catherine, is dominated and treated poorly her whole life by her cold and distant father,...
Published on Nov. 28 2009 by Nancy Drew

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3.0 out of 5 stars Sad Story
This was a sad story of a women torn between the two men that she loved. Her controlling father did not like the man that she wished to marry. He felt that he was only after her money and tried to keep them apart. The poor women suffered dearly trying to do the right thing. It was very disheartening.
Published on May 21 2002


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Woman Before Her Time., Nov. 28 2009
Washington Square by Henry James is a very well-written novel depicting the story of a woman caught in a time period where she is conflicted and tormented by both her father, a wealthy doctor, and her suitor, a good-looking man with little means of his own.
The main character, Catherine, is dominated and treated poorly her whole life by her cold and distant father, who has little value and respect for his "plain-looking and dull" daughter. When Catherine meets her suitor Morris, she is immediately taken with the man and all of his charms and wit. Catherine's father however, sees beyond the good looks and charm of this man, and, realizes instantly that Morris is only after his daughter for her money.
What ensues is an attempt by Catherine's father to do whatever is possible to make sure that his daughter does not marry this man.
Catherine is pulled in two different directions throughout the novel, but, in the end, what prevails is a strong woman lurking under the subservient exterior in a time where women were valued very little for their opinions, intelligence and independence.
A good classic novel.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling and depressing., July 16 2004
This review is from: Penguin Classics Washington Square (Paperback)
"Washington Square" is a story bursting with pain, sorrow, egotism, and shattered dreams. Having seen the movies "The Heiress" (1949) and "Washington Square" (1997), I possessed emotions and images going into the book, that others may not feel. Nonetheless, I came to many conclusions. Dr. Sloper, the father who emotionally-starved his only daughter, Catherine, used his money to pit his daughter into her own private Hell. The same money Dr. Sloper thought Morris, Catherine's beau, would use frivolously. He had no qualms about hurting his daughter in any form, and viewed Catherine as the object that took away all of his happiness. Catherine, the plain heiress who was said to lack beauty, intelligence, wit, and anything worthwhile, fears, but loves her father. She thinks he is magnificent, even when he spurts hatred towards her. She falls in love with Morris Townsend, who is said to only want her for her money, and this is when the trials and tribulations begin. Aunt Lavinia, Dr. Sloper's sister and Catherine's Aunt, is a young girl at heart, and only worsens things by her imaginative involvement. Although it must be so, I did not get a full impression that Morris was only after Catherine's money. The story is heart wrenching and you'll feel disgust for the characters, but will also feel shame for them. As a side note, the 1997 movie "Washington Square" is the most faithful of the two movies, excluding the ending, and in my opinion, much more fulfilling than "The Heiress." The latter is dramatic, but does not delve into the main parts of the story. I recommend.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Uncomplicated with cinematic appeal, Oct. 3 2002
By 
L. Dann "adhdmom" (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
The introduction to this paperback edition, by Peter Conn, (I always read introductions after I finish a book)- places WS in the pantheon of American letters. Of itself, it does not belong. But by its birthright, it does. It was James' last American novel, a product of his distinguished NY childhood. James fled the states for Europe soon after its publication. NY, he explained had too little social conflict and diversity, (how's that for irony.) Pre Civil War New York was, at least to the middle classes who make up the characters, a tranquil, unhurried and well- mannered, society. The same manners, from a glamorous, if not tragic slant were drawn in The Age of Innocence and other (to me) more intoxicating tales by his friend Edith Wharton. Hawthorne, we are told, was one of James' masters, his influence is felt in W.S.
On its own, the story is middling. As an evocation of another time, without any real connection to what New York was soon to become, it lures the reader into a forgotten past. Any American lit student or NY city buff will cherish it for its august parentage.
The plot lacks surprises or unexpected twists. It centers on the maneuverings of a gold digging scoundrel in pursuit of a plain and unsophisticated heiress. Her father, a self-made, well-off physician, adamantly and sadistically condemns the match- he is right about the man's motives, but his methods are cruel. The comic and sometimes despicable aunt, Lavinia, living completely on her brother's charity, is turned into a divisive fool, so enamored of Townsend, the fox, that she allows herself to be manipulated against her niece and brother. During a trip abroad, where father and daughter hoped to resolve the division, Lavinia opened the door to the doctor's own office, drinking the doc's finest wine and puffing his cigars, we see the true soul of the pretender as though looking into the future.
Of the main characters, only Catherine, the heiress is sympathetic, and more so as she displays her resolve and honor. The others are ensconced in their own past beliefs and devious plottings, reducing Catherine to a symbol, without life. Her father's position and the strength of his objections, after all, are based less on feelings for his daughter than his mortification that Morris Townsend, a rogue and layabout would live off his estate.
The story has appealed to stage writers and filmmakers since it was written 120 years ago. Catherine was played by Olivia de Haviland to Montgomery Clift's Townsend; directed by William Wyler in 1949. In 1997, it was made into a film again starring Jennifer Jason Leigh and Albert Finney as the doctor, Maggie Smith as Lavinia. With the strength of those players and the cinematographers to vivify the otherwise pale story, I can imagine the results would bear watching. NY, before the great migrations seems closer to the antebellum south than what it has so magnificently and tragically come to represent.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Sad Story, May 21 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Washington Square (Paperback)
This was a sad story of a women torn between the two men that she loved. Her controlling father did not like the man that she wished to marry. He felt that he was only after her money and tried to keep them apart. The poor women suffered dearly trying to do the right thing. It was very disheartening.
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4.0 out of 5 stars One of those sad, but she triumphs type of books, May 4 2002
By 
"hr2go" (San Jose, CA) - See all my reviews
This book is one of my favorite Henry James book. Although, I kind of wanted a happier ending for our heroine. She nevertheless perseveres and achieves her own happines. The characters are rich and reading about this time period is always interesting.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A quick and satisfying read, April 30 2002
This review is from: Washington Square (Paperback)
Washington Square is an amazingly easy read. The overall storyline is simple enough to follow: A young woman with a large fortune, Catherine Sloper, is being pursued by an almost penniless, yet handsome and charming, young man, Morris Townsend. The heroine's father, Dr. Sloper, is against the match, saying he will disinherit Catherine if she decides to marry Morris. So the overrall question is will she choose love or duty? Simple, isn't it? This is what makes this book so wonderful and clever. James uses such a simple storyline to draw out complex and complicated characters that make you question what their real motives are.
James' immediate portrayals of his characters seem almost one-dimensional. Beginning with the book's heroine, Catherine is seen as a plain, dull, and almost stupid girl with an unyielding devotion to her father. Dr. Sloper is an intelligent and prosperous man, who unfortunately cares little for his daughter because she is 'decidedly not clever.' Dr. Sloper's sister, Mrs. Penniman, is shown as a meddlesome aunt. And finally, one can already guess, that Morris Townsend, the penniless young charmer, is none other than a fortune hunter. When once you see him, can you doubt that he is only after Catherine for her money? Yet, throughout the novel, new sides of each character are being shown, creating multi-faceted characters out of the simple and easy to understand characters we first see. Catherine isn't as simple-minded as originally made out to be. Her devotion to her father is understandable because you know that she is a merely being a good and pure and loyal daughter. But we also see that her loyalty and devotion can be given to someone other than her father. We see Catherine does have some backbone because she is so steadfast in her loyalty concerning both her father and Morris. Dr. Sloper's motives are very unclear. He is rough and tough towards his daughter, but he cannot continue being indifferent to her. Is it because he finally has found some feeling for her or because his pride has taken a blow? Aunt Penniman: what is her real motive concerning Catherine and Morris' relationship? And throughout the book, you are never really sure if Morris is just after Catherine's money or if he really does love her in some fashion.
It is a quick and satisfying read, but beware that this is not a romance. There are topics found in the novel that anybody can relate to, be it from sympathizing with Catherine's character, or understanding something of the others. Even though there are many things to think about and question after reading this book, it is definitely worth your while to read this book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars One of James' most accessible works, Jan. 24 2002
By 
Westley (Stuck in my head) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Washington Square (Paperback)
I love the writing of Henry James, but it can be dense and difficult to navigate. I recommend Washington Square as a good introduction to his work. The book is quite short, and the writing is fairly straight forward, but still complex and beautiful. The story is a classic and has been retold in several movies, including the brilliant "The Heiress." The theme of a person with inner beauty, but who is physically unappealing and awkward being unappreciated by his/her parents and society is certainly relevant, and the novel's herione remains contemporary. If you like this novel, then move on and sample some of James' more difficult work.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Musical prose!, Dec 9 2001
By 
"tlaloc7" (Washington, DC United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Washington Square (Paperback)
I picked this out of a box of my university books while cleaning out the basement, thinking I would try a page or two before tossing it. An hour later, I climbed the stairs, admitting I was going to read the whole thing and enjoy it. I think the other reviewers have done a marvelous job of plot detail as well as literary merits in terms of character stude, period piece, etc, so I will add just the one thing I haven't read in the few reviews I have read:
Henry James is a wordsmith. He enjoys words, relishes them, and composes with them in such a way as to share his love of language with the reader.
THIS is what made this book a joy to me. Many times I found myself rereading sentences and then reading them aloud, just pleased with the way they were worded. "She had given this account, at least, to everyone but the Doctor, who never asked for explanations which he could entertain himself any day with inventing," writes James in Chapter II of Mrs. Penniman, and I had to read that one three or four times before I stopped smiling.
Read it while awake, read it while alert, read it when you have time and quiet to enjoy the pure music of James' prose, for at least to me, that is the beauty of Washington Square.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A smart character portrayal, not a love story: 3.5 stars, Dec 1 2001
This review is from: Washington Square (Paperback)
Henry James' work, Washington Square, is simply a love story with psychological undertones. In it, the main character Catherine Sloper falls deeply in love with a handsome suitor, Morris Townsend. The irony here is that Catherine is a plain girl who possesses a "poor dumb eloquence." As well, besides possessing great wealth of her own, Catherine has an enormous inheritance from her deceased mother. Conversely, Morris is a handsome, debonair suitor whose financial situation may only be described as relative poverty. His charm is enjoyed by almost everyone but Catherine's father, Dr. Austin Sloper. Suspicious of Morris' motives, Dr. Sloper accuses him of marrying Catherine for her fortune and vows to remove all inheritances in her name should the union occur. These circumstances create a bitter relationship between father and daughter, as Catherine must eventually choose between her family and fortune and her lover. In her struggle, however, Catherine gains an admirable strength of character, which is central to the message of the story.
As examined through a brief plot summary, Washington Square contains no clear-cut revelations in its message. Upon careful investigation of the characters, however, it seems that James wants the reader to decide whether Morris' love is true or not. In other words, in terms of the main character's conflict, should Catherine have chosen her father or her lover? In the end, James has Catherine choose neither, thus carefully creating a plot that can be scrutinized from different perspectives. With each of Morris' actions, it is unclear whether he does it out of love for Catherine or out of greed for her money. The author achieves this effect by judicious word use and careful insertions of flaws in the characters of Morris Townsend and Dr. Sloper.
Washington Square was a novel I read for school after having visited Washington Square itself many times. Having said that, although it's an excellent read for literary analysis, it's also a rather dry novel. For a student wanting to complete a literary analysis and enjoy a good book at the same time, this is not good news, thus the 3.5 stars. However, its strong points are the psychological power and the keen insight James has on human nature. Read it for those things, if anything.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Quite Complex for a Novella, March 15 2001
By 
S. Schwartz "romonko" (alberta canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Washington Square (Paperback)
This book by Henry James is as different as can be from his longer works, but it has its own charm. The charactization is quite complex for a novella. It's just unfortunate that Catherine is so unredeemably staid. I realize that quite a few women chose to live a life alone in those days, but she seemed quite plodding to me. She does develop into a spinster that seems to enjoy that state. And Morris is quite the cad, but we the readers are never in any doubt as to that. The doctor father is another story, He's so right-minded that it's difficult to imagine anyone could be that stubborn. And the widowed aunt is a treasure - silly, manipulative and oh so romantic. This novella is written like a play since there are only four main characters, and most of the action takes place in the house on Washington Square. I really think this book looks deceptively simple, but it is not as simple as it appears. I enjoyed the story.
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Penguin Classics Washington Square
Penguin Classics Washington Square by Henry James (Paperback - June 28 1984)
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