Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Wishwood. English home of Amy, Dowager Lady Monchensey, and the location for the planned meeting for a family reunion. The name implies that Amy has tried hard to make the wishes of her children and herself come true, even though she has faced significant opposition. Even her effort to organize the family reunion is doomed to disaster. The play is set in late March, so no flowers are in bloom to adorn the tables. Amy’s son John overdrinks and has an automobile accident that prevents his attendance at the reunion. Harry, Amy’s oldest son and the heir apparent of the estate, arrives in a troubled state and abandons his mother for a spiritual quest. Harry, or Lord Monchensey, is driven by the appearance of Eumenides, who haunts him concerning his wife’s recent death when she was swept overboard while sailing on a passenger ship with Harry. His various aunts and uncles quarrel with each other and, especially during the choral passages, reveal the superficial and deeply disturbing lifestyle they have been living. In the last scene, a lighted birthday cake is brought out, and Agatha and Mary walk clockwise around the cake as they gradually blow out the candles a few at a time. By this time Amy has died and the birth of some new era is symbolized in this party that declares the undoing of a family curse. With Agatha’s help, Harry has been freed from the family curse and now sees the once frightening Eumenides as bright angels whom he must pursue beyond the artificial hopes of Wishwood.