Country Place is a departure both from Ann Petry’s first novel, The Street (1946), and from African American literary tradition. Country Place focuses on a community of main characters who are predominantly white; the book’s minor characters are of varying ethnicities and cultures within a small, rural New England town. The conflicts that arise between the characters, however, are conflicts of class. Petry focuses on the demarcation between the aristocratic and working classes to expose the town’s underlying foundations of bigotry, malice, promiscuity, and violence.
The novel begins with the arrival of Johnnie Roane in Lennox as he returns home from World War II. He immediately discovers, in his taxi ride with the Weasel, that his prolonged absence has forced him to view Lennox more clearly. His dreams of a loving reunion with his wife Glory, who he hopes will help him to “forget wars and rumors of wars,” are dashed by the Weasel’s sly innuendo of Glory’s affair with the town rake, Ed Barrell.
Despite his suspicions, Johnnie continues to idealize Glory, even though his love for her thwarts his ambitions and keeps him trapped in Lennox: “You want Glory . . . but having her means Lennox. So you forget you ever heard of a paintbrush or a drawing pencil or a place known in some circles as Manhattan Island.” Glory, however, is not willing to accept Johnnie back. His absence has enabled her to feel independent, and her job at Perkin’s store allows her to receive much attention from the men in town. Bored with the thought of marriage and domestic chores, Glory becomes attracted to Ed Barrell, the town stud with a bad heart, who habitually enters into affairs with married women.
(The entire section is 724 words.)