Washington Square

Inciting Event: At a party, Catherine meets the charming and “beautiful,” but poor and wasteful, Morris. This kicks off the main conflict of will-she-or-won’t-she-marry-Morris? She starts out by rejecting the conflict in the sense that she immediately rejects the idea that Morris could possibly be interested in someone as plain and dull as herself.

First Plot Point: Six weeks later, Morris asks Catherine to marry him. This fully immerses Catherine in the conflict: she wants to marry Morris, but her father believes Morris is a wastrel who is only after Catherine’s inheritance. He adamantly opposes the match. The rest of the story is about the struggle between Catherine and her father, Dr. Sloper. The engagement brings Catherine out of her normal world of passive singleness and into her adventure world as a besieged lover.

First Pinch Point: Dr. Sloper visits Morris’s widowed sister—who financially supports Morris—and finally gets to her admit Catherine would be better off not marrying Morris. Even though, as it turns out, Morris is exactly what Dr. Sloper believes him to be, Dr. Sloper is the main antagonist in this story. He is the one who staunchly and sometimes cruelly stands between sweet, simple Catherine and what she wants—so it is only right that the Pinch Point should emphasize his power to thwart Catherine. Note how it also introduces new clues about Morris’s character.

Midpoint: Despite her dread of disappointing and disrespecting her father, Catherine finally allows Morris to pressure her into agreeing to a swift marriage. From this moment on, mousy Catherine slowly begins to take charge of her life. She makes the decision and sticks to it with all genuineness, both in the face of Morris’s immediately hesitancy and her father’s fury.

Second Pinch Point: Dr. Sloper takes Catherine abroad for a year and ends by trying to frighten her by telling her he “is not a good man”—and instead ends by forever damaging her trust in him and their heretofore simple and loving relationship. As a result, Catherine returns home even more determined to leave her father’s house and marry Morris.

Third Plot Point: When Catherine declares to Morris that she will marry him even though it means being disinherited, Morris immediately gets cold feet. He privately decides to break off the engagement—and Catherine intuits it. The Thing She Wants—her story goal—is suddenly dashed from her hand, leading her to a decisive low point of spirit

Climax: Years later, Dr. Sloper dies—and Morris returns to have another go at Catherine, now that her inheritance is no longer in question.

Climactic Moment: Catherine adamantly refuses Morris. She has fully gotten over him and is not only disillusioned about him but has also grown into a strong and savvy woman with no regret for her painful loss.

Resolution: Morris leaves—and complains to Catherine’s meddlesome aunt, who was largely to blame for the entire mess.

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