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In 1840's New York Catherine lives with her father, Dr. Sloper, a physician. Her mother died some years before, and Dr. Sloper still idolizes her. He never misses an opportunity to compare his daughter to her - a comparison the daughter cannot win. When Morris Townsend, a handsome but penniless young man, comes along and woos and wins his daughter's heart, Dr. Sloper is sure that he is only after her considerable inheritance, and opposes their marriage. Dr. Sloper takes his daughter to Europe in hopes she will forget Morris, but she does not. After Catherine returns to New York, the young lovers plan to elope. Dr. Sloper threatens to disinherit his daughter. Will this dissuade Morris?