Barrington. “Second-class town” located in Worcester County in central Massachusetts that is the “native town” of Laura Dearborn, the novel’s principal female character. Laura’s upper-middle-class New England upbringing provides her with a background in literature and a reading knowledge of French, but because of the death of her father, the stilted social climate of the town, and the presence of an aunt living in Chicago, she eventually pulls up stakes and moves west.
*Grand Rapids. Western Michigan town near which the novel’s principal male character, Curtis Jadwin, grew up on a farm. Curtis briefly attends high school there but quits to enter the livery stable business and later moves to Chicago. There, he attains great wealth through real estate speculation. Curtis and Laura bring together the economic and cultural strains found in Norris’s depiction of Chicago.
*Chicago. Great midwestern commercial center and hub of the nation’s commodities trading. The dual character of Chicago, as both a cultural and an economic center, is best seen through individual sites that figure into Norris’s novel. At the same time, the city as a whole is wonderfully described in the novel, and there are particularly fine, often poetical, descriptions of the city’s changing seasons.
(The entire section is 595 words.)