Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Hanaford. Fictional New England community supported by Westmore, its industrial suburb. Home to the Westmore cotton mill, Hanaford is the home of the mill owners and managers. Factory money provides them with country houses, gardens, servants, and entertainments.


Westmore. Mill village containing shabby row houses for its workers and a company store. The Eldorado roadhouse, the one building which is actually kept up, is an additional source of income for the factory manager, who receives payment from the landlord. Readers see the sordidness through a reformer’s eyes when Amherst describes the run-down houses and poor inhabitants of Westmore. He calls attention to the isolation and deadness of this place.

Overshadowing the smaller buildings, the Westmore cotton mill looms over workers’ lives and landscape, its very size emblematic of its oppressiveness. The factory itself comprises noisy workrooms filled with oversized machinery. The rooms are crowded, dirty, and poorly ventilated. The brutal cacophony of the enclosed rooms contrasts vividly with the stillness of luxury.

Lynbrook house

Lynbrook house. Located in fictional Lynbrook, Bessy Westmore’s New York mansion is everything that Westmore is not. Descending gardens, terraces, tennis courts, and stables surround the grand house, all of which represent the factory owner’s luxurious life and provide...

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(Great Characters in Literature)

Ammons, Elizabeth. Edith Wharton’s Argument with America. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1980. Comprehensive study of Wharton’s fiction with the focus on women. Reads the novel as an attack on patriarchal power.

Carlin, Deborah. “To Form a More Imperfect Union: Gender, Tradition, and the Text in Wharton’s The Fruit of the Tree.” In Edith Wharton: New Critical Essays, edited by Alfred Bendixen and Annette Zilversmit. New York: Garland, 1992. Analyzes Miltonic echoes and Edenic allusions. Describes the way in which Wharton uses marital incompatibility to examine various other irreconcilable social issues.

Goodwyn, Janet. Edith Wharton: Traveller in the Land of Letters. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1990. Discusses Wharton’s use of specific landscapes and explores her consistent concerns with ideas of place. Argues that the number of contentious issues Wharton covers in the novel leads to a confusion of aim and direction.

Wershoven, Carol. The Female Intruder in the Novels of Edith Wharton. Rutherford, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1982. Focuses on Wharton’s disruptive and often defiant heroines. Sees two intruders in the novel who link the work’s different subjects.

Wolff, Cynthia Griffin. A Feast of Words: The Triumph of Edith Wharton. New York: Oxford University Press, 1977. A superb psychological study of Wharton’s life and artistic career. Perceives Justine’s need to find fulfillment as a woman as a core issue of the work.