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Analysis on “Washington Square” by Henry James

The character of Catherine is simple and dull in the beginning of the story. As she started to understand her situation and her father’s identity and personality towards her, she begins to realize the fact that there are certain thoughts and ideas that lie within her individuality. However, Catherine remains unpredictable and hard to get. Her father’s basic problem with Catherine is that she has no distinct capabilities and understandings on the things around him.

Whatever thing that may happen around her, she ignored it. Unlike her father, Catherine used to be unreasonable with her surroundings. Therefore, her father started to worry about her. This is what the readers used to see about Catherine’s character. Even if she strived hard to become a special person that person should be; there are still facts of life that she thinks as part of common life. Dr.

Sloper, Catherine’s father became one of the most significant people who affect the protagonist’s life. Because of the fact that Dr. Sloper has so many fears and anxieties towards his daughter, he became wicked and somehow irrational with his feelings for Catherine. “You would have surprised him if you had told him so, but it is a literal fact that he almost never addressed his daughter saves in the ironical form (p. 28). ” Because Dr. Sloper’s wife died after giving birth to Catherine, Dr.

Slope did not know how to take care of his daughter in a good manner without thinking of the situation that she is always been part of his wife’s death. Catherine felt all of these things but she ignored it because she wanted to live a normal life even if she is in her father’s hands. Catherine strived hard to make people understand her personality but even if she tried so hard, she could not please everyone to like her. “It made her look, when she had coveted in secret.

It made her look, when she sported it, like a woman of thirty; but oddly enough, in spite of her taste for fine clothes, she had not a grain of coquetry, and her anxiety when she put them on was to whether they, and not she, would look well (p. 18). ” This is what the narrator of the story tried to convey to his audience. Catherine wanted a normal life but she could not because of many uncertainties and illogical perception against her from the people around her. Even if she is a fine lady looking for simple happiness, there are always hindrances occurred coming from her father.

The curse was made by the people and not by nature. This is what happened to Catherine’s life. That is why even if she wanted a happy life finding her own way of satisfaction, she could not obtain it because many people especially her father treated her unfairly – thinking that she is not a normal person who deals with masquerade of illusion and pride. In conclusion to this, it can be said that the reader’s perception towards the protagonist is an exploration of social identity of a person.

The author of the story elaborates the idea of how women sacrifice their own identity and pride to make their family and loved ones happy. Catherine chooses to live alone and become contented with her hobbies and workloads because this is what her father told her before he died. Even if she does not want to obey, she needed for this is the standard of the society – to obey the rules of the authority, which is her father as her basic authority.


James, H. and Cunningham, M. (2004). “Washington Square. ” Signet Classic.

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