Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Zodiac Cottage

Zodiac Cottage. Last home of Oliver Ward, the grandfather of Lyman Ward, a retired history professor who is constructing a narrative of his grandparents’ lives from documents and personal reminiscences. Located in Grass Valley, California, the cottage takes its name from the Zodiac Mine, which Oliver superintended in his later career. The cottage and its gardens resonate with the lives of Lyman’s grandparents and also serve as the stage for his painful recuperation from the amputation of a leg. Throughout the novel, which is threaded with Lyman’s first-person narration, the self-sufficiency of his virtual but self-imposed confinement to Zodiac Cottage is used as a counterpoint to Susan and Oliver Ward’s shifting domestic circumstances half a century earlier.

*New Almaden

*New Almaden. California community built near the New Almaden Mine, located about twelve miles by stage road from San Jose. Some weeks following their marriage, Susan Ward joins her husband at the New Almaden Mine, where he is employed as chief engineer. Susan expects her new home to be merely a cottage on a bare hill amid ugly mine buildings but instead finds a handsome, though modest, new house with a veranda. At the moment of her arrival she feels sensations about space and size that are emblematic of pioneers in the American West. Wallace Stegner knew the New Almaden region intimately, as he lived for many years not far from it, in Los Altos Hills.

A brief interlude set in the nearby coastal town of Santa Cruz provides Lyman Ward with one of several opportunities in the novel to remark upon the contemporary face of the landscape. As one who writes books and monographs about the frontier, Ward is well suited to contrast the physical and social environment of the present with that of the nineteenth century.


*Leadville. Colorado mining town located high in the Rocky Mountains, about eighty miles from Denver, near the headwaters of the Arkansas River. A note of adventure, even physical peril, is introduced to the novel by a vivid passage...

(The entire section is 870 words.)

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The form of Angle of Repose is that of a novel within a novel. The inner novel is Lyman's story of Susan; the outer one is the story...

(The entire section is 670 words.)

Ideas for Group Discussions

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Because of its topical subject matter and superior prose style, Stegner's fiction usually provokes stimulating discussions. In general, his...

(The entire section is 678 words.)

Social Concerns

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

In Angle of Repose, Stegner tries to show the value of history through the character Lyman Ward, who narrates the novel. Slowly dying...

(The entire section is 283 words.)

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Angle of Repose is at once part of and outside the traditions of western literature. The novel's self-conscious realism separates it...

(The entire section is 464 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Suggested Readings

Abrahams, William. “The Real Thing.” Atlantic Monthly, April, 1971, 96-97. Penetrating eval-uation of Angle of Repose. Applauds Stegner for making this fictional connection with an important past.

Etulain, Richard W. Conversations with Wallace Stegner on Western History and Literature. Rev. ed. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1990.

Lewis, Merrill, and Lorene Merrill. Wallace Stegner. Boise, Idaho: Boise State College, 1972.

Proffitt, Steve. “Wallace Stegner: An Interview.” Los Angeles Times, June 7, 1992, M3. This interview, published a year before Stegner’s death, focuses on some of the writer’s most central concerns. Reveals a great deal about Stegner’s approach to the West as a literary setting.

Robinson, Forrest G., and Margaret G. Robinson. Wallace Stegner. Boston: Twayne, 1977. Offers an extended analysis of Angle of Repose and interesting insights into Stegner’s creative production generally. Useful chronology and well-constructed index.

Stegner, Wallace. Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs: Living and Writing in the West. New York: Random House, 1992.

Streitfeld, David. “Wallace Stegner and the West Years of His Life.” The Washington Post, April 15, 1993, C1-C2. This appraisal of Stegner’s writing, published shortly after his death, makes brief but cogent statements about his major work, including Angle of Repose. Credits Stegner with considerable artistic integrity.