Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 797
*Boston. Massachusetts’s capital and leading city, known in this novel mainly as the city of reform and feminist views, which one character refers to as “Boston ideas.”
*Charles Street. Fashionable Boston street on which Olive Chancellor, the novel’s central feminist figure, lives. Near the even more fashionable Beacon Street. Because of where she lives, the wealthy Olive is expected to move in fashionable circles, but she has cut herself off from that milieu in order to be a reformer.
Olive’s house. Boston residence of Olive Chancellor; a place of strange, narrow rooms, perhaps suggesting something strange and narrow about Olive’s life and ideas. The house is full of books and fashionable objects, and yet seems not entirely comfortable, as if embodying a conflict in Olive between expensive tastes and a self-denying dedication to a cause. Olive’s windows provide a view of distant, ugly, impoverished parts of Boston, perhaps to show, by contrast, how comfortable Olive is materially. Somewhat oddly, Olive’s companion, Verena, finds the view lovely, perhaps suggesting that however impoverished those parts of Boston may be, they are richer metaphorically than Olive’s house of narrow rooms.
Miss Birdseye’s rooms
Miss Birdseye’s rooms. Site of a feminist meeting in Boston to which Olive takes her cousin, Basil Ransom, and where they both meet the inspirational speaker, Verena Tarrant. The rooms, which belong to Miss Birdseye, an old reformer in decline, are in a boardinghouse in the South End, a part of Boston in decline. They are much less elegant than Olive’s house, and Olive thinks that Birdseye lacks taste. However, the point seems to be that Birdseye is quite at home in plain rooms because she is more interested in causes than in taste—unlike Olive, who is in conflict because she is interested in both.
Ransom’s neighborhood. Ugly yet somehow appealingly alive neighborhood, where Basil Ransom rents shabby rooms on the upper East Side of New York City near the corner of Second Avenue. The narrator says, however, that the neighborhood had little influence on the southern-born Ransom, who seems quite out of place in both New York and Boston.
Tarrants’ house. Shabby little house where Verena Tarrant lives with her parents in the Boston suburb of Cambridge on a street ironically called Monadnoc Place. Monadnoc is the name of a New Hampshire mountain often called sublime, but there is nothing sublime about Monadnoc Place. However, Verena herself does seem sublime, and thus very much separate from her surroundings, though in a more positive way than Basil and Olive.
*Memorial Hall. Harvard University building commemorating students who died while fighting for the Union during the Civil War. Verena takes Ransom to see it. It is described in the novel as a noble, solemn place celebrating honor, sacrifice, duty, and generosity. Ransom feels a spirit of reconciliation between North and South when he sees it. The mood is broken, however, when Verena criticizes the memorial for glorifying war.
*Central Park. Pastoral oasis in the middle of New York City where Verena and Ransom go for a walk. The park and its surroundings are described in great detail, but in contradictory terms. On one hand, the area is fresh and fragrant, with a glow over it. Verena enjoys herself, and Ransom’s voice seems to merge into the distant hum of the city, as if finally he is fitting in somewhere. However, when Ransom and Verena leave the park they encounter disappointed, unemployed men propped against a wall; and even within the park, the narrator says that the landscape is artificial.
*Cape Cod. Slender peninsula extending from southeastern Massachusetts into the...
(The entire section contains 1104 words.)
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