Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Cloisterham. Fictional cathedral town in southern England in which the novel is primarily set. The orphaned young Edwin Drood’s work as an apprentice engineer takes him all over the world, but he returns to Cloisterham at every opportunity to see his fiancé, Rosa Bud, also an orphan, who is attending a finishing school in Cloisterham, and his guardian and uncle, Jasper, who is the novel’s central figure. Dark themes of death, violence, and obsession pervade the novel, and the town’s cathedral is a forbidding and relentless presence that foreshadows the end of life—just as Dickens was prematurely coming to the end of his own life as he was writing this book. Dickens contrasts the setting of a cathedral town with the vastly different setting of London’s East End opium dens to point up the moral lassitude of Uncle Jasper—a choirmaster who is addicted to opium, obsessed with Rosa, and the probable murderer of Edwin.

The past betrays the present: All the dead in the cathedral’s crypt are part of the chain tying the orphans to each other. The fact that the last wishes of Edwin’s and Rosa’s dead fathers was that their children should marry each other gives Jasper a motive to get rid of his nephew to clear the way for himself with Rosa. Ironically, however, he is unaware that Edwin and Rosa have secretly decided to stay friends but not to marry each other.

Even the sacred resting grounds of the...

(The entire section is 432 words.)