Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Altamont. North Carolina town in which most of the action takes place. Modeled on Thomas Wolfe’s own hometown, Asheville, in western North Carolina, Altamont is a mountain resort town that serves as a frequent stopover for travelers commuting between eastern Tennessee and Charleston, South Carolina.

Gant often visits his sister at her home in the state capital of North Carolina. Eventually, she returns to Altamont to care for their dying father. Her experiences serve as a vivid reminder of how Altamont retains a hold on all of its inhabitants—a hold that author Thomas Wolfe—in the fictional guise of Eugene Gant—was determined to escape.


Dixieland. Altamont boardinghouse owned by Eliza Gant, protagonist Eugene Gant’s mother, in which Gant spends most of his childhood. There he develops a deep disdain for boarders. Described as “America’s Switzerland” by his mother, Eliza, who owns the house, it is situated in a bustling and growing section of Altamont. The house contains at least twenty rooms; throughout the novel, additions are made to include additional living and dining spaces for the family, bathrooms, a sleeping porch, and a larger dining room for the boarders.

As in many family-owned boardinghouses, members of the Gant family are relegated to small, often damp and dark, living quarters, leaving the finest rooms for paying guests. The house is often not used in winter seasons, and the young Gant prefers to spend time at his father’s home because it is smaller, more intimate, and always has a roaring fireplace. Throughout the entire novel, Eliza Gant is obsessed with the acquisition of property, and while she continues to reside at Dixieland, several scenes unfold...

(The entire section is 725 words.)