Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Queenborough. Fictionalized version of Virginia’s capital city, Richmond, during the early twentieth century. In the years following the Civil War, Queenborough is sharply divided into three distinct geographical areas: Washington Avenue, Granite Boulevard, and Canal Street. Queenborough society is divided by these physical delineations as well. Granite Boulevard is the neighborhood where the most expensive and elegant homes are located. Only those families who are secure financially and socially live in this neighborhood.

Washington Street houses the older families, those who lack the financial means to move to Granite Boulevard or are determined to maintain the status quo. The Archbald family, headed by General David Archbald, and the Birdsong family, consisting only of the comparatively impoverished George and Eva, are the mainstays of the upper end of Washington Street.

On the opposite end of town lies Canal Street, where only the poor families and those on the fringes of society make their homes. Though Canal Street is physically only three blocks distant from Washington Street, socially it is much farther removed.

Penitentiary Bottom

Penitentiary Bottom. Section of Queenborough near the penitentiary, where the lower classes of society live. Penitentiary Bottom is located at the lower end of Canal Street on the opposite end of town from the Archbalds and the Birdsongs. Nine-year-old Jenny Blair Archbald, curious to see where a bad smell comes from, decides to go to...

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(Great Characters in Literature)

Inge, Thomas M., ed. Ellen Glasgow. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1976. Excellent centennial essays on “Miss Ellen’s” work, including pithy critical comments by Louis Rubin, Jr., on The Sheltered Life.

McDowell, Frederick P. W. Ellen Glasgow and the Ironic Art of Fiction. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1960. Includes lucid analyses of The Sheltered Life in chapter 1, which provides fine background, and in chapter 11, which deals exclusively with this novel.

Raper, Julius Rowan. From the Sunken Garden. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1980. Fine survey of Glasgow’s fiction between 1916 and 1945. Chapter 8 focuses on The Sheltered Life and places it in context with other Glasgow writings.

Scura, Dorothy M., ed. Ellen Glasgow. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1992. An immensely helpful and enlightening collection of contemporary reviews of Glasgow’s writings, including an entire section devoted to The Sheltered Life.

Thiebaux, Marcelle. Ellen Glasgow. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1982. A lucid and informative survey of Glasgow’s novels. Includes an analysis of The Sheltered Life in chapter 7.