Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

The city

The city. Unnamed city in northern Georgia in which the novel’s four friends live and work. Although this place frames the main story, it is never named or treated as anything other than a normal, middle-class (sub)urban place. This technique effectively maintains Dickey’s realistic intention. Unlike antirealist novels, which distort reality in order to draw attention to the place as a symbol of something else, Dickey’s undogmatic use of “the city” allows readers merely to sense that this place is, in some real but undefinable way, a mythical place that represents all of modern, existential life. It is a metaphor for the alienation of the contemporary middle-class, which is treated as both materially successful and spiritually empty.

With its anonymous and interchangeable business complexes, shopping malls, fast-food joints, and suburbs, the city could be any modern American city. This technique underscores Dickey’s intention to present the extreme violence of the friends’ wilderness canoe trip as a universal human experience: Violence, the novel suggests, is the “normal” experience of modern American men. After the river, the city is the most important of the novel’s four places, since its job is to create an image of the modern American place, the most desirable, if flawed, image of order and civilization available to modern humanity.


Oree (OH-ree). Staging area for the...

(The entire section is 539 words.)