Disguised Malevolence In Ethan Haberfield's Washington Square

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Disguised Malevolence By: Ethan Haberfield Washington Square is a short novel written by Henry James. It was first published in 1880 and set in New York City during the same time period. In this novel he poses the question: Do people do good things for bad reasons? Everyone has ideals. Everyone is willing to sometimes manipulate a situation in an effort to benefit themselves. Frequently, people conceal their true desires and disguise it as beneficiary to the other party. Is there such thing as an unselfish good dead? As single minded focus often tends to blind ethical reason, Henry James presents the idea that while malevolence may be apparent to third parties: he shows that people who are directly associated with the circumstances …show more content…

Penniman’s matronly feelings of affection for Catherine are sincere though her idealistic romantic fantasies cloud her better judgement. Mrs. Penniman claims that her brother, Dr. Sloper, could very possibly change his mind regarding Morris and Catherine’s relationship. She also states “He cares for nothing but facts; he must be met by facts!” (89) Once Dr. Sloper believes that Morris is not a mercenary, he will go along with the relationship and reinstate his wealth to Catherine. Mrs. Penniman decides it best that Morris and Catherine get marries at once without the consent of her brother. She also tells a story where her late husband, a minister, married a young couple who did not have the girls fathers approval. After they had eloped he “reconciled, and thought everything of the young man.” (89) “‘If you marry Catherine at all risks,’ she said, ‘you will give my brother a proof of your being what he pretends to doubt.’. . . ‘Austin Married a wife with money - why shouldn't you?’. . . ‘you must not be afraid. Be afraid of nothing, and everything will go well!’” (90,92) Lavinia is directly betraying her beloved family as she is overcome with her desire for the plot of Morris and Catherine’s relationship to thicken. In no way is she concerned with the realistic outcome of her plan, every responsible thought she has is swayed by her need for her romantic fantasies to be played out on Morris and Catherine. To attain these fantasies she must disguise her malevolence by …show more content…

Dr. Sloper views Morris as a self-absorbed mercenary. Catherine sees him as a miraculous statue but with more beautiful eyes. Ms. Penniman is swayed by his charm and expresses her feelings toward him through her niece. He has a great skill for manipulating woman and he is well aware. The question remains which opinion is true? And does Morris himself even know the answer? He doesn’t think of himself as a villainous or unmoral person. He simply believes that he is a person who deserves a luxurious lifestyle. Marrying into wealth as a means of attaining that would be acceptable to him, especially if he wouldn’t have to work. He may be fond of Catherine but love is not what he wants from her. Morris is not a mercenary but in order to live the life he desires, money is a requirement. “Morris walked along a moment, and then he repeated harshly, ‘I must give her up!’”. . . ‘I certainly say it distinctly enough--brutally and vulgarly enough.’ He was ashamed of himself, and his shame was uncomfortable; and as he was extremely intolerant of discomfort, he felt vicious and cruel. He wanted to abuse somebody, and he began, cautiously - for he was always cautious - with himself.” Morris now understands that he is never going to persuade Dr. Sloper into giving

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