Hope’s Corner. Frontier farm of Henry and Rose Hamilton Tower, located on Stony Creek, north of Milwaukee, which became Wisconsin’s Washington County. Hope’s Corner is the primary setting for the novel. Alwyn Tower, the first-person narrator of the novel, grows up in the farmhouse occupied by his grandparents and his parents. A huge boulder by the hitching post looks like the Ark of the Covenant in Grandmother Tower’s Bible, and the kitchen doorstep is a discarded marble gravestone with the lettering turned toward the ground—symbols of the promise of a land of their own and the sacrifices required to realize that dream. During Alwyn’s childhood, the wilderness is already gone; he can see only plowed land and farm machinery of all kinds creeping like mechanical spiders over the slopes.
Tower House. The house itself, the third built on Hope’s Corner, is a work in progress, as new rooms and porches are added to accommodate the generations of Towers who call it “home.” From this house, Tower descendants scatter throughout the West, and a few go to Europe. Some return home to live for a while or to be buried in the family cemetery, which for Alwyn, takes the place of a city child’s park.
In the house’s parlor, furnishings brought from New York by canal boat give evidence of the family’s hopes of becoming landed gentry in the West. The upholstered couch, on which Alwyn’s grandfather takes his daily nap, has the proportions of a lion’s body, with carved claws for legs and one end raised in a mass of fringed pillows. Above a writing desk a single frame contains embossed portraits of literary masters such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Longfellow, James Russell Lowell, and John Greenleaf Whittier. A wall rack over the couch...
(The entire section is 750 words.)