Introduction and Notes by Ian F.A. Bell. Professor of English Literature.University of Keele Washington Square marks the culmination of James'sapprentice period as a novelist. With sharply focused attention upon justfour principal characters, James provides an acute analysis ofmiddle-class manners and behaviour in the New York of the 1870's, a periodof great change in the life of the city. This change is explored throughthe device of setting the novel's action during the 1840s, similarly aperiod of considerable turbulence as the United States experienced theonset of rapid commercial and industrial expansion. Through therelationships between Austin Sloper, a celebrated physician, and hissister Lavinia Penniman, his daughter Catherine, and Catherine's suitor,Morris Townsend, James observes the contemporary scene as a site ofcompeting styles and performances where authentic expression cannot bearticulated or is subject to suppression.