Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Saddle Meadows

Saddle Meadows. Name of both the New York village and the nearby ancestral manor of Pierre Glendinning’s family. Herman Melville modeled the estate on his own Arrowhead estate, near Pittsfield, Massachusetts, as well as his Uncle Herman’s home at Gansevoort in upstate New York. From the start of the novel, Pierre embodies Saddle Meadows. The grandeur of the countryside is reflected in the physical and spiritual grandeur of this cultivated youth and his heroic lineage. The novel opens with repeated assertions that Pierre is fortunate to have been born and bred in the country; however, he eventually must survive in the city, where his pastoral breeding is of little help.

The residents of the village of Saddle Meadows are a closely knit community; the threat of scandal to the Glendinning name is made that much more damning because of this. In the early nineteenth century, America’s Revolutionary War was still within the cultural memory, and its heroes were still linked with the ancestors who bore their names. Because of their ancestry, the Glendinnings hold a place similar to that of feudal lords in the village: They own most of the property and many of the church pews. Their implicit superiority to the townspeople is based upon the respect—and fear—they collect from these people.

After Pierre chooses to learn Isabel’s story, Saddle Meadows becomes a fantasyland for him, to be recalled in solitude in...

(The entire section is 597 words.)