Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 790
The Crossways. Redbrick country house in Sussex, England, that is home to the protagonist, Diana Antonia Merion. The Crossways, which she has inherited at her father’s recent death, is her only source of income, through rentals to tenants. The house takes its name from being near the crossroads to Brasted, London, Wickford, and Riddlehurst; it also symbolizes the transitional, or crossroads, period in Diana’s life.
Keeping the Crossways is an important part of Diana’s marriage agreement with her first husband, Augustus Warwick. When he loses money on the railroads, he attempts to pressure her to sell the house, but she instead arranges a government position for him because of her friendship with the influential Lord Dannisburgh. That relationship leads to accusations of adultery and Diana’s separation from Warwick. She escapes to the Crossways when the pressures of the divorce case become too great. In the end, her attempt to become a novelist fails, and she is forced to sell the Crossways. Until near the end of the novel, she is unaware that she will be able to keep the Crossways, after all, for the man she is about to marry, Thomas Redworth, is the secret purchaser of the house.
Copsley. Country home of Lady Emma Dunstane, Diana’s surrogate mother figure, located in Sussex, near the Crossways. Diana socializes at Copsley, where she experiences the love and friendship of Lady Emma. Lady Emma’s feelings about nature are contrasted to Diana’s because she is an invalid and because she does not enjoy living in a secluded rural setting. Symbolically, she has no need for the sublime qualities of nature because she is already married and thereby, in Victorian terms, fulfilled. In contrast, Diana is still seeking marital happiness and fulfillment. Various characters, including Diana, walk the grounds and sail the property’s lake, which gives them the chance to be renewed by contact with nature.
*London. Capital city of Great Britain, in which Diana lives during her marriage to Warwick and after her separation. Their London house represents Diana’s imprisonment in a loveless marriage, as she is required only to be beautiful, to be witty, and to entertain important male friends of her husband. After Diana and Warwick separate, Warwick remains in the London house and later dies from complications of a stroke. Meanwhile, Diana takes up residence in another London house that she cannot afford to maintain as she attempts to launch a writing career. This second house also becomes a prison to her.
Clarissa. Yacht on which Diana sails on the Mediterranean Sea with her friends after her divorce trial ends. The cruise gives her a chance to reflect on what has happened and what she wants to do with her life, now that she is free of Warwick. She joins Thomas Redworth in Cairo, with Sir Percy Dacier, nephew to Lord Dannisburgh, and Dacier falls in love with her.
*Italy. Country that Diana visits during her Mediterranean cruise. There she travels along the shores of Lake Como and Lake Lugano, below the Italian Alps, a region that Meredith prized for its restorative powers and exquisite beauty. There, Diana finds herself “reawakened, after a trance of a deadly draught, to the glory of the earth and her share in it” merely by hiking in the mountains, picking flowers, eating local food, and spending time alone in nature.
Meredith found it unnecessary to explain why British travelers went abroad, taking for granted readers’ knowledge and experiences of the Grand Tour of the Continent, as well as the class-based expectation that going abroad provided personal growth. Diana experiences nature both as a spiritual force and as a loving companion. Her sensibilities and the narrator’s descriptions of the landscapes mirror the...
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