Where does the setting take place in "The Housekeeper" by Robert Frost?

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Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"The Housekeeper" was originally published by Robert Frost in a collection entitled North of Boston.  Many of the poems, including "The Housekeeper" hinted or included details of a rural setting. 

"The Housekeeper" largely takes place in a farm house kitchen in a rural community.  The poem centers around a conversation between the mother of Estelle and a neighbor concerning John, the owner of the farm, and Estelle, the housekeeper, who has run away. 

Throughout the dialogue of the conversation, Frost gives the reader many details about farm life and the setting.  For example, he portrays the kitchen as the comfortable room in the house, where the neighbor automatically goes to find Estelle's old mother sitting and doing beadwork.  The reader also learns that John and Estelle raised chickens on the farm and cleaned them in the kitchen.  From time to time they would groom their chickens before a fair or show:

"Full of lank, shivery, half-drowned birds

In separate coops, having their plumage done

The smell of the wet feathers in the heat" (129-131).

Later in the poem before John arrives, the neighbor leaves Estelle's mother, saying:  "You ought to have the kitchen to yourself" (210).

Besides the chickens, Frost also includes the details of the farm house and surrounding lands:  a brook going past the yard, hill by the pasture, a barn for the livestock, an apple tree.  The house itself is described by the mother as being in fairly bad condition:

"If he could sell the place, but then, he can't:

No one will ever live on it again,

It's too run down." (52-54)