Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Wicomico. Small town on the Eastern Shore of Maryland (most likely patterned on the actual town of Salisbury) where the novel’s plot unfolds amid a commonplace backdrop. John Barth gives slight description of the town itself, merely noting that it has little character. A typical mid-Atlantic town of the mid 1950’s, Wicomico’s main importance is that it provides an appropriately bland external setting for the highly charged internal and interpersonal dramas which occur in the book.

Jacob Horner’s room

Jacob Horner’s room. Boardinghouse room rented by Jacob Horner, the novel’s main character, in a house near the college where he teaches. There Joe and Rennie Morgan confront Horner after the first time he and Rennie have sex and where the couple continue to commit adultery on a regular basis at Joe Morgan’s insistence. Symbolically, despite the fact that the room is the site of many of the novel’s dramatic scenes, it is a bare, almost barren setting. The room is large, with high ceilings, big windows and a large bed high off the floor, all of which fit Horner’s hard-to-please requirements. It houses Horner’s few possessions, including his records, all Mozart except for a single Russian dance, a combination that matches his psychological mood. The most notable features are a rocking chair on which Horner sometimes sits for hours, hardly moving or thinking, and a small statue of the Greek mythological character Laocoön which sits on the mantelpiece. This statue becomes a symbolic representation of...

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(Great Characters in Literature)

Bowen, Zack. Readers Guide to John Barth. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1994. An accessible and helpful survey of Barth’s writings, with valuable insights into the underlying philosophical themes which are at the core of The End of the Road.

Fogel, Stanley. Understanding John Barth. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1990. An excellent introductory account of Barth’s fictions, including his early “ethical” novels, The Floating Opera and The End of the Road.

Harris, Charles. Passionate Virtuosity: The Fiction of John Barth. Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1983. A scholarly and in-depth discussion of Barth’s fictions, ranging over philosophical and psychological sources.

Tharpe, Jac. John Barth: The Comic Sublimity of Paradox. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1974. Through his concentration on the philosophical content of Barth’s works, Tharpe sheds light on the ethical and existential situations in The End of the Road.

Walkiewicz, E. P. John Barth. Boston: Twayne, 1986. This brief but informative book is undoubtedly the best place to start in a study of John Barth.