Reader's Guide - Discussion Questions
- What does the reader learn about Austin Sloper in the first chapter of the novel? Based on these first four pages, is he a sympathetic character? Why or why not?
- Although Austin Sloper has become a respected physician, his wife was wealthy when they married. Why does he believe his situation differs from the relationship of Morris and Catherine?
- Dr. Sloper is disappointed to learn that his wife has given birth to a girl. Might he have been more accepting of a plain, dutiful son than of Catherine? Support your answer with passages from the text.
- How important is place in Washington Square? Would the story be different if Henry James had chosen to set the story in another city
- Is receiving her father's money important to Catherine? Do her feelings about money change during the course of the novel, or remain the same?
- Discuss Dr. Sloper's reasons for disliking Morris Townsend. Which are based on fact, and which are simply suspicions? What, if anything, does he like about the young man?
- What traits does Catherine find appealing in Morris? Are these the same traits her father admires?
- Dr. Sloper says, “The day Lavinia gets into your boat it capsizes.” Does Lavinia Penniman's involvement in the romance between Morris and Catherine help or hurt the couple?
- How does the trip to Europe change Catherine's relationship with her father? Why does Catherine remain obedient even after she realizes what her father thinks of her?
- Pretty, graceful, and vivacious, Marian Almond is the type of daughter Dr. Sloper wishes for. Yet Mrs. Almond says, “Catherine … has a style of her own—which is more than my poor Marian has, who has no style at all.” What defines Catherine's style? Does this help or hinder her socially?
- What impression does Catherine's quiet resignation make on her father? Is he ever pleasantly surprised by her actions or behavior? If so, which actions or behaviors does he admire?
- Compare and contrast the personality traits of Catherine and Dr. Sloper. In what ways are they alike? How do they differ?
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