Midland city. Unnamed midwestern city that provides the novel neighborhood setting; Booth Tarkington calls it simply a “middle-sized midland city.” However, Tarkington based it on Indianapolis, Indiana, his birthplace and hometown. (Readers will note that, in the novel’s first paragraph, its protagonist, William “Willie” Baxter, appears at the corner of Washington Street and Central Avenue. Washington Street was and is a major thoroughfare of Indianapolis, running east to west through the city and into surrounding counties.)
Tarkington’s city serves as an icon of nostalgia, a kind of literary museum of the way things once were, culturally and morally, in small cities and villages across America. Readers of the twenty-first century will perhaps be surprised to note some of the physical features of the city: one can easily walk from its center to its residential neighborhoods. Automobiles are mentioned but seldom seen, and are not at all something that every family has. The story’s characters move from one place to another on foot or on the trolley. One scene, near the middle of the novel, is staged on a “streetcar.” Travel outside the city is by train (one of the last scenes in the novel takes place in the city’s railway station).
The novel’s first scene is set in an old-fashioned drugstore. Such family-owned businesses served as popular meeting places for young people. The adolescents in...
(The entire section is 484 words.)