Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Williams family home

Williams family home. Located in Cleveland, Ohio, the family home, in its moods and changing states of cohesion, reflects the periods of alienation, dislocation, and close community experienced by its occupants and, in a larger sense, by the American family. The first two sentences of the novel read, “It is well known that in every neighborhood in the United States there is at least one house that is special. Special because it is haunted, or because of an act of violence that took place there.” The levels of the house and those who dominate them are Freudian in nature.

Casual in his relations with others, Ralph Williams, the father—an intellectual, anarchist, atheist, and entrepreneur—occupies the basement, as he does his drinking, doing jigsaw puzzles, and avoiding the world within and without the house. The mother, Annabel, remains on the main floor, a kind of mitigating super ego; she is domestic, worried about her children, cut off from love and her favorite son, Berry-berry, who wanders from home and remains a mythic presence that shadows everyone in the house. Clinton, a younger son, cut off from the comfort of the Old Neighborhood, ventures into the streets of the New Neighborhood, absorbing life, visiting drugstores, a magazine store, a chili place, working at the White Tower restaurant, surrounded and alone, a rebel without a cause, retreating to his bedroom, a realm of consciousness, to contemplate and write down conversations and phone calls, undertaking furtive forays through the house to poke through...

(The entire section is 645 words.)