Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Brightwood Hospital

Brightwood Hospital. Fictional Detroit hospital sometimes called Hudson’s Clinic in honor of Dr. Wayne Hudson, whose brilliant brain surgery has made the place famous. The hospital is described as being white, neat, and having a variety of well-lighted rooms; however, it also harbors a dark mystery concerning Hudson’s life and work. Hudson is strongly driven by secrets he learned from an artist who drew his ideas for gaining creative power from Christ’s Sermon on the Mount. In the mysteries of brain surgery, the inescapable connection between the physical and the spiritual forms a hinge that holds together the novel’s central drama. Hudson’s work at Brightwood is symbolic of the modern struggle of humans to understand themselves as more than machines.

The rich playboy Robert Merrick is taken to Brightwood Hospital after a boating accident. There, he not only recovers, but also discovers his vocational calling to become a brain surgeon in order to atone for his inadvertent part in Hudson’s death.

Lake Saginack

Lake Saginack. Lake overlooked by Dr. Hudson’s Flintridge home. Its black waters and steep sides symbolize the depths of life and death into which Hudson perpetually dives in spite of his fears. For Robert Merrick and his grandfather Nicholas Merrick, this lake is a place of leisure—for swimming and sailing. Ironically, when young Merrick has a sailing accident and is saved from drowning by a resuscitation apparatus belonging to Hudson, Hudson himself drowns in the lake and cannot be saved because his apparatus is not available. Thus, his life ends in the same waters where the younger man’s life is renewed.


*Paris. France’s capital city is the home of Merrick’s widowed mother. To Merrick, the city represents a world of posturing and pretense that he avoids as much as possible, even as he tries to avoid memories of his very unpleasant childhood at home with two parents who hated each other.

Gordon’s Gardens

Gordon’s Gardens. Cabaret in Detroit where young people, such as Tom Masterson and Joyce Hudson, go for wild parties and heavy drinking. Merrick rescues Joyce from an incident there with an acrobat who uses her as a stage display, even though she has passed out.