Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

*Western Front

*Western Front. World War I combat zone in which the narrator’s Norton Harjes Ambulance Service is serving the Allied forces. As an idealistic American volunteer in this Ambulance Corps, the narrator ironically experiences “prolonged indignities and injuries”; feeling badly deceived, he longs for release, a main theme of the novel. That initial release comes, paradoxically, when he is arrested by the French, along with his Harvard friend, B., on suspicion of being spies.

*Noyon

*Noyon (NOH-yohn). Small French city north of Paris where the narrator is interrogated by an investigative board. Kept in a cell overnight, the narrator is overcome by “an uncontrollable joy” that comes from his first sense of regaining something of his selfhood. Because he refuses to say that he hates Germany, the enemy, he is remanded for continued custody in a detention center.

Prison

Prison. Detention center and site of the enormous room, in which the novel’s main action takes place; located in the town of La Ferté-Macé in northwestern France’s Orne department, west of Paris. This most unlikely of places, filthy, smelly, and crowded with the imprisoned riff-raff from a dozen different countries, becomes for the narrator the “finest place on earth,” the place of his salvation.

Within the prison, the narrator is thrown into a huge darkened room, given a straw...

(The entire section is 454 words.)