Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Altamont. Small North Carolina town in which Eugene grows up. Annoyed with his mother’s gossiping and his sister’s complaining, frustrated with his family’s financial problems and the general static superficiality of the town, he longs to leave. He is revolted by the constriction and triviality of what he regards as the paltry lives around him. He desires to escape these constraints and the hopeless location of his childhood. Hoping for a pilgrimage of discovery and escape, he resolves to travel to a northern land of promise where he can achieve understanding and satisfaction. Altamont stands for the beginning, the departure point; it is the place that Eugene works against but is also the place he works from.

*Harvard University

*Harvard University. Venerable New England center of learning in which Eugene enrolls. There, removed from the stifling elements of his youth, he grows enamored with the possibilities of his new life. His hunger for knowledge and intellectual growth make him open to learning from books and from life experience. He continues to develop his sharp eye for the peculiarities and inconsistencies of human nature. In a writing class, he becomes inspired and dreams of earning fame as a playwright. He believes that an answer to the loneliness and despair he has always been prey to might be found in a vast outpouring of language. He has begun to see his world expand, and he desires to engage an even larger world. Harvard and nearby Boston symbolize...

(The entire section is 625 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Idol, John Lane, Jr. A Thomas Wolfe Companion. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1987. A reference text for the study of Thomas Wolfe. Useful information not readily available in other sources may be found here, for example, a list of special collections of material on Wolfe, genealogies of major families in Wolfe’s fiction, a glossary of people and places in Wolfe, and primary and secondary bibliographies.

Kennedy, Richard S., ed. Thomas Wolfe: A Harvard Perspective. Athens, Ohio: Croissant and Company, 1983. A collection of essays in two groupings, “Critical Considerations” and “Texts and Manuscripts.” Of Time and the River is treated specifically in one essay and incidentally in another.

Kennedy, Richard S. The Window of Memory: The Literary Career of Thomas Wolfe. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1962. A major critical study of Thomas Wolfe, tracing the author’s career from his early work to the novels published after his death. Of Time and the River receives extended treatment.

Nowell, Elizabeth, ed. The Letters of Thomas Wolfe. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1956. A generous collection of the correspondence of Thomas Wolfe by the woman who was his literary agent and later his biographer.

Wolfe, Thomas. The Story of a Novel. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1936. This book began as a speech Wolfe gave at the University of Colorado Writer’s Conference in August, 1935. It is an account of the creative effort that resulted in Of Time and the River and acknowledges Wolfe’s debt to his editor, Maxwell Perkins.