*New England. Northeastern region of the United States whose first English settlers built on Protestant Puritanism. A product of two worlds, Puritanism famished in the Old World and flourished in New England. Oliver Alden, Santayana’s protagonist in this novel, like Santayana himself, is torn between two societies—America, “the greatest of opportunities” and “the worst of influences,” and Europe, which is “always dying gently, cheerfully.” It is the contrast of productive diligence and delightful decadence. The soul of the author, like that of his lead character, remains divided between two worlds.
*Boston. Capital of Massachusetts and largest city in New England. Boston has been called the “Athens of America”; however, Santayana’s Boston in this novel is more like Sparta—a “dark and constricted place.” The Aldens’ home, located near the State House in Boston, is “forlorn” and “uninhabitable,” more a “pretense” than a residence. Proper folk, like the Aldens, frequent King’s Chapel, where they learn “morality mingled with reason.” As old-line Blue Book Anglo-Saxon, the Aldens avoid the immigrant Irish and Italians, who are “romanizing” their Puritan “Eden.”
Santayana’s Boston, like that of the Aldens, is “out of step” with the rest of America. The “puritanism” of the Aldens is at odds with the “idealism” of the new century, and their “pessimism” conflicts with the “optimism” of the Progressive Era. Their obsession with the “ancient” contrasts with the compulsion for the “recent” in a New America, with a “New Freedom,” “a new woman,” and “a New Idea.” Their noblesse oblige democracy clashes with the egalitarianism of...
(The entire section is 733 words.)