Can you describe the setting from In the Heat of the Night?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The novel is set in the city of Wells, North Carolina, in the early 1960s. It is a hot, "stagnant" summer in this town of 11,000 residents. As the novel opens, we learn that the business section of town contains a movie theater, a pharmacy, and a restaurant, among other...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

The novel is set in the city of Wells, North Carolina, in the early 1960s. It is a hot, "stagnant" summer in this town of 11,000 residents. As the novel opens, we learn that the business section of town contains a movie theater, a pharmacy, and a restaurant, among other businesses. It has unshaded street lamps and is near a highway. The all-night restaurant contains a worn formica counter in the shape of a U.

The black section of town is a separate, segregated area, literally on the other side of the railroad tracks. Buffering it is a poor white neighborhood of shabby unpainted old houses, with potholes in the streets.

Wells also has a rich section, literally in the hills overlooking the town. The Endicotts live there, in a big house with views of the Great Smokies, a glass-walled living room, and many books and record albums.

Wells is clearly a traditional Southern town that is divided by strict race and class lines that endeavor to keep people in their "places."

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The Heat of the Night takes place in a small, sultry town of Wells, North Carolina in the heated civil rights movement era of the 1960s. Heat is alluded to many times in this novel; it symbolizes the stagnant heat the anxiety and nervous tension of the Southern town on the verge of change. The heated exchanges of temper between Chief Gillespie and Virgil Tibbs are certainly indicative of this tension. "The dirty hot dawn" of the last chapter expresses the lustful activities that have gone on secretly in the night of this heated town. And, of course, the title itself expresses the time of the central incident that occurred "in the heat of the night."

 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team