Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

High Prairie

High Prairie. Dutch farming community southwest of Chicago where Ferber’s protagonist, Selina Peake, goes to teach in a primitive one-room schoolhouse after her gambler father is shot to death. There she lives with a farming family named Pool and experiences an environment as different from that of her life with her peripatetic father as the fine finishing school she attended in Chicago is different from the tiny schoolhouse in which she teaches. Selina’s school opens its sessions in November after the fall harvest. During the cold winters, students huddle at their pine desks, arranged close to the school’s pot-bellied stove. They write their assignments in chalk on slates, bring their own lunches, drink water from the well, and use the privy outside.

At the town’s Dutch Reformed Church, sunlight penetrating the red and yellow windows makes the faces of the solemn Calvinist worshipers look jaundiced. For recreation, families attend a dance and box supper held upstairs at Adam Oom’s general store.

Pool farm

Pool farm. Home of the Pool family, with whom Selina lives while beginning her teaching job in High Prairie. Thrifty, hard-working farmers, the Pools raise hogs and cabbages. The Pools’ life, she finds, is not a game but an unending job in which they devote every possible minute to making their livelihood from the soil: plowing and reaping, repairing farm tools, cooking, and...

(The entire section is 535 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Field, Louise Maunsell. “From Gopher Prairie on to High Prairie: In a Novel Just Published Edna Ferber Invades the Small Town.” The New York Times Book Review, February 24, 1924, 9. Reviews So Big favorably as a novel about values to read and to remember.

Gilbert, Julia Goldsmith. Edna Ferber. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1978. Ferber’s great-niece sets the context for Ferber’s novels within her life and is not afraid to ask why the famous Americanist has gone into eclipse.

Gould, Gerald. “New Fiction So Big.” The Saturday Review of Literature 137, no. 3572 (April 12, 1924): 392. A more critical review that suggests that Ferber has created a false dichotomy between art and achievement.

Reed, Paula. “Edna Ferber.” In American Novelists, 1910-1945. Vol. 9 in Dictionary of Literary Biography. Detroit: Gale Research, 1981. Discusses the most important of Ferber’s works in the context of her life. Concludes that Ferber’s writings are significant for their “recognition of the contributions of women to the growth and development of America.”

Shaughnessey, Mary Rose. Women and Success in American Society in the Works of Edna Ferber. New York: Gordon Press, 1977. This most thorough examination of Ferber’s works claims that women and America are the novelist’s two major themes. Ferber believed that “if women ever wake up to their potentialities . . . the world would be a better place.”