Ithaca. California town in which the novel is set. The fictional Ithaca has two models. The first is from classical Greek literature—the Ionian island kingdom of Ulysses in Homer’s Odyssey (c. 800 b.c.e.). In that epic, Ithaca is a home that is painfully attained by the hero of the Trojan War after a long and difficult journey. Both “Homer” and “Ulysses” are names of characters in Saroyan’s story.
Saroyan’s second model for Ithaca is his own boyhood hometown in central California. Growing up in the “Little Armenia” section of Fresno, Saroyan knew at first hand small-town America, with its bakery (selling day-old pies), its grocery store (run by a clerk who fetched goods for customers), the train depot (where young boys waved to engineers as great trains sped by), the butcher shop, the newspaper office, the bus station, the telegraph office, the library, and so on. Ithaca’s high school is modeled on Saroyan’s own Emerson High School, with his own painful memories of studying ancient history and of athletic competitions on the race track with the hurdles (again the imagery of ancient Greece intrudes).
In Saroyan’s mind the two Ithacas merge to become one, not only an archetypal Norman Rockwell small town, but one recognizably real and representative of real American towns during the 1940’s.
Macauley house. Ithaca home of the Macauley...
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