Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Octavius. Fictional small town in the Mohawk Valley of New York State based loosely on Harold Frederic’s hometown of Utica in the same region. There the young Methodist minister Theron Ware is given his first congregation. Octavius proves to be both a disappointment and an opportunity for Theron Ware. He is disappointed in not being posted to the larger and more prosperous town of Tecumseh but is grateful to leave the provincial village of Tyre behind him. Octavius represents an opportunity for him to develop his talents on a bigger stage. However, in Octavius Theron confronts both an ultraconservative congregation and the unorthodox opinions of the Irish Catholic Celia Madden, the Roman Catholic priest Father Forbes, and Dr. Ledsmar. Octavius develops into a battleground for Theron’s soul, as he faces puzzling and unsettling temptations from each of his three new acquaintances.

Celia Madden’s chamber

Celia Madden’s chamber. Celia’s “sacred chamber” is her bedroom and sitting room. Furnished with nude statuary, paintings of the Madonna and Child, candles, and flowing draperies, her chamber reflects her “Greek” philosophy and sense of the exotic and beautiful. The room also intensifies the heady pleasure that Theron finds with Celia. She intoxicates him with her beauty, with her liberated philosophy of life, and with the emotional intensity of Frédéric Chopin’s music.

Forbes’s home

Forbes’s home. Roman Catholic church and rectory in Octavius. Theron compares his role as a Protestant minister with Father Forbes’s role as a Catholic priest. Forbes is a patrician autocrat, in command, living in luxury, and idolized by his female parishioners. He leaves parishioners waiting for hours while, in contrast, Theron is always at the disposal of his congregation. In his dining...

(The entire section is 770 words.)