Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

*Boston

*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

*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

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...

(The entire section is 797 words.)