Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Rome. Italy’s capital city, in which the novel’s opening and closing chapters are set. These chapters feature extensive descriptions of the tourist attractions prominent during Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1858-1859 sojourn in Florence and Rome. As the center of both Western Christendom and an older pagan civilization, the locale helps to fuse together two of the major cultural elements of the novel. Roman history is deeply layered and provides the symbolic background against which to place the two Americans, who come from a New World culture that is thinner and less confident than that of Rome, but also one that is less encumbered by time and therefore freer of intellectual and emotional constraints.

*Capitol sculpture gallery

*Capitol sculpture gallery. Roman museum in which the novel opens with the two Americans and their two Italian friends exploring the collected art treasures. Among their discoveries is a marble faun that is believed to have been sculpted by the ancient Greek Praxiteles. The friends decide that the faun bears a striking resemblance to Donatello. With its ancient associations, the faun becomes the central symbol for the novel, one through which Hawthorne develops his clash of cultures and conflict among his characters.

*Roman catacombs

*Roman catacombs. Subterranean Roman burial and worship center of the early Christians that Miriam visits with her friends. There she encounters a mysterious figure who follows her throughout the early pages of the story. Symbolically, this figure suggests that she is dogged by her past, one...

(The entire section is 668 words.)