Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Equity

Equity. Small town in Maine in which the novel opens on a picturesque winter scene. The town initially seems attractive and in harmony with its natural surroundings. However, several variant meanings of the word “equity” suggests that W. D. Howells had ambivalent thoughts about the town. Equity is a place that fosters the basically simple and provincial outlook of a woman like Marcia Gaylord and constrains an ambitious and unscrupulous man like Bartley Hubbard, whom she marries. Human nature is not morally more pure in Equity; it merely faces less varied temptations there. Bartley is the kind of person who takes mean advantage of others wherever he is, but Equity, where transgressions of laws and mores quickly become generally known, offers only limited scope for his selfishness and arrogant disregard of others. This conservative community also imposes restrictions on him as a journalist and seeker of an interesting social life. In short, Equity cannot hold Bartley, and because Marcia is infatuated with him, she departs also, although it is the sort of place that suits her temperament.

Logging camp

Logging camp. Simple place, close to nature, where Bartley visits Kinney, a man of gentle nature and ingenuous admiration for the philosophy of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Bartley himself acknowledges that only a person in what he calls “first-rate spiritual condition” can safely commune so closely with nature, but he is far less interested in nature than in the...

(The entire section is 620 words.)