*Cambridge University. Prestigious English institution of higher learning at which Rickie is studying through the first part of the novel. Rickie’s rooms at one of the colleges are closely identified with a happy and inquiring frame of mind, all the more so as his intellectual hero, student-philosopher Steward Ansell, is nearby. Rickie’s drawing room has a fireplace, a sofa, a table, chairs, a piano, and a painting on a wall. The opening scene set here keynotes the entire novel inasmuch as Rickie and his fellow students, led by Ansell, are having a philosophical discussion on the nature of reality.
With no permanent home since he was orphaned at fifteen, and crippled by a congenital foot deformity, Rickie regards Cambridge as a secluded shelter between the stormy seas of his unhappy childhood and the uncertain world awaiting him in the future. Cambridge stands for friendliness, sensitivity, and mutual consideration. As he does with people, Rickie endows places with absolute beauty and goodness.
Sawston School. Boarding and day school for boys in an unspecified suburban community where Rickie goes to teach. There, he lives with his new wife, Agnes, and her brother, Herbert Pembroke, the master of Dunwood House, the school’s largest building. There, Rickie shares a study with Herbert. The house’s large saffron drawing room is full of cozy corners and dumpy chairs that receive parents. Nothing in the house is accidental. Everything is planned, contrasting with Rickie’s rooms at Cambridge, with their casual jumble of items, which find their way to Sawston and are placed hither and yon.
Modeled on E. M. Forster’s own Tonbridge School, Sawston is a modern complex with classrooms, dormitories, cubicles, studies, a preparation room, a dining room, hot-air pipes, and parquet floors. Sawston is also a symbol of some of the negative aspects of British middle-class values, with their emphasis on conformity and deadening conventions. It is also a representation of Great Britain’s imperial past and presumed imperial future, with portraits of empire-builders all around. Sawston worships success, not truth; it promotes personal power, not close human relationships. It seeks to develop esprit de corps, not brotherhood. In short, it is a regulated and hierarchical world.
At Sawston, Rickie is stuck in a dreary marriage to a scheming gold-digger after his inheritance, and his daughter dies soon after her birth. Sawston is thus not only the site of his nightmare but also the setting for a contagious emotional and spiritual deterioration.
Cadover. Estate in Wiltshire of the unlovely, spiteful and sardonic Mrs. Emily Failing, Rickie’s aunt on his father’s side. Her residence—which Forster modeled on Acton House near Felton, Northumberland—was built around 1800 in the Roman style of architecture highlighted by several pilasters stretching from its top to its bottom. There, her ward, Stephen Wonham (who is eventually revealed as Rickie’s half-brother), lives in an attic room illuminated by a single round window above eye level.
Cadover includes a railroad crossing, the scene of the novel’s denouement in which the drunken Stephen, lying on the tracks, is rescued from an oncoming train by Rickie, who is nevertheless killed by it.
*Wiltshire. County in southern England to which references occur throughout the novel. It is represented as the place where the “fibres of England unite”—a place where one gets a sense of historic continuity. To Rickie, Wiltshire offers a happier alternative way of life. While Sawston represents competition and worldly success, Wiltshire stands for a mode of life in which instinct and direct physical experience rank above both the practical rationality of Sawston and the intellectualism of Cambridge.
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Beauman, Nicola. E. M. Forster: A Biography. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994. Shows clearly the autobiographical elements of The Longest Journey, including how Forster’s relationship with a close friend at Tonbridge School parallels the Rickie-Stewart relationship. Argues that the novel was influenced by Forster’s reading of Edward Carpenter, an English philosopher and social critic.
Furbank. P. N. E. M. Foster: A Life. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1978. Comprehensive biography with many details about Forster’s life and ideas. Provides details of his schooling and how he used his own public school, Tonbridge, as a model for Sawston School in the novel. Includes a good discussion of Forster’s residency at Cambridge.
Godfrey, Denis. E. M. Forster’s Other Kingdom. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1968. Focuses on Rickie’s unconscious search for salvation and sees his acknowledgement of Stephen as a sort of acceptance of nature, which is always in conflict with the modern world. Argues that until Rickie accepts his half brother, he cannot understand himself.
Land, Stephen K. Challenge and Conventionality in the Fiction of E. M. Forster. New York; AMS Press, 1990. Finds The Longest Journey interesting because of the depth of the evolution of Rickie. Argues that Forster’s primary theme is the conflict between conventional and liberal worlds as symbolized by the characters in the novel.
Rosecrance, Barbara. Forster’s Narrative Vision. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1982. Points out that while The Longest Journey ends tragically with Rickie’s death, it also concludes on an affirmative note of hope for the future. Demonstrates how Forster’s second novel is markedly better than his first, Where Angels Fear to Tread (1905).