Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 720
Woodview. House in southern England’s Sussex countryside, close to Shoreham, that is owned by the Barfields, for whom Esther Waters becomes a kitchen maid. Although she is from London, Esther loves the countryside and spends much of her spare time walking on the Downs. Woodview is not so much a country house as a working stables, where racehorses are trained. Nevertheless, in many ways the establishment is typical of a small country house and is managed in the usual fashion, with a distinct hierarchy below stairs as well as above.
The house has been much expanded and altered, reflecting Mr. Barfield’s intermittent prosperity. The establishment is unusual in that it is entirely permeated by the racing culture, with many of its staff members having been involved in racing for many years. Others gamble habitually, and servants are likely to be sacked if they discuss racing business, for fear this might give information to other racehorse owners. Although much of the racing culture is unpleasant to the religious Esther Waters, who is a member of the Plymouth Brethren, she is nevertheless happier at Woodview than at any other time and in any other place, and it is to Woodview, much diminished, that she later returns, to work for Mrs. Barfield once again, after her husband dies.
*London. Esther’s original home and the city to which she returns after she becomes pregnant. After first going to her mother’s home, she spends time in a lying-in hospital in Marylebone, in a lodginghouse, in a workhouse, sleeping rough on the Embankment, and in a succession of situations as she attempts to find enough money to keep herself and her son—who lodges with an old woman in Dulwich. George Moore vividly portrays Esther’s attempts to find work, describing her long journeys on foot across central London to see prospective employers, the life on the streets, the temptations represented by the public houses. This is also reflected in walks she takes with her friend Katherine, who also once worked at Woodview. Through their eyes readers see the lower-class life of Soho and Covent Garden.
The novel never crosses the River Thames to Southwark, where Katherine lives. Southwark was where brothels were traditionally situated, and it is clearly implied that Katherine is a prostitute. Moore also vividly describes the often appalling conditions in which Esther is obliged to work, from lodginghouses to the homes of shopkeepers, suggesting that while Esther keeps herself out of the workhouse, she nevertheless comes down in the world.
*Avondale Road. Street in London’s West Kensington district where the decline in Esther’s fortunes is arrested when she is hired by the undemanding Miss Rice, a writer who is impressed by both her story and her integrity. Miss Rice gives Esther a safe home and enough money to support her child. Avondale Road is a quiet household, situated in a quiet neighborhood with local shops and a sense of community among the domestic workers. The novel provides little description of Miss Rice’s house other than the fact that it is in a redbrick suburb and has a garden.
*East Dulwich. Home of Mrs. Lewis, who cares for Esther’s son, Jackie, and who has befriended and supported Esther. At the time the novel was written, Dulwich was on the outskirts of London, close to the open area known as Peckham Rye—a region considered healthy for children.
King’s Head. Public tavern on Dean Street in London’s Soho district. After becoming reunited with William Latch, the natural father of her child, Esther becomes the landlady of the public house. Although she and her husband run the place competently, it is financially successful only because William is also running an illegal betting house. When this fact is discovered, he is fined and obliged to return to work as a bookmaker on the racecourses, where he contracts tuberculosis. Unable to work, he once again runs an illegal betting house in the pub and eventually loses his license. William and others believe the public house to be unlucky (a man cuts his throat there). It is in the tavern that William’s tuberculosis finally overcomes him; he is taken to a hospital but eventually returns home to die.
Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 217
Cave, Richard Allen. A Study of the Novels of George Moore. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1978. Discusses specific texts from George Moore’s oeuvre and provides an overview of the texts and the stylistic subheadings under which they may be categorized. Also includes concise notes and references for further research.
Farrow, Anthony. George Moore. Boston: Twayne, 1978. Provides a chronology of the significant events of Moore’s life and explores the influences and other factors to which he was exposed as a writer.
Federico, Annette. “Subjectivity and Story in George Moore’s Esther Waters.” In English Literature in Transition, 1880-1920. Greensboro: University of North Carolina, 1993. A study of the motivations that led Moore to write this socially provocative text. Also explores the cultural significance of the character of Esther.
Gerber, Helmut E., ed. George Moore in Transition: Letters to T. Fisher Unwin and Lena Milman, 1894-1910. Detroit, Mich.: Wayne State University Press, 1978. The letters contained in this text offer some indication of the reflective artfulness of Moore’s craft. Also provides personal glimpses into his life, instincts, processes, and creative genius.
Owens, Graham, ed. George Moore’s Mind and Art. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1970. A collection of nine critical essays that examine Moore’s novels. Offers excellent insight into the author’s themes and issues.
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