Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Paris. France’s capital is the setting of the first few chapters of the novel and several subsequent chapters. British visitors to this many-faceted city find much to delight or disgust them. For Nick Dormer, Paris represents the world of art, the freedom of creative expression, and the aesthetic life. He finds art and beauty in the museums, on the streets, and in the churches and squares, and the city’s atmosphere provides stimulus and inspiration. An elixir to Nick and to Miriam Rooth, an aspiring actress, Paris is threatening to respectable philistines such as Nick’s mother and Julia Dallow, his future fiancé. When faced with the choice of walking through Paris at night, “a huge market for sensations,” or sitting at a café across from a church, Julia opts for the café because it is more respectable. The British tourists traditionally stay in hotels and sightsee on the Right Bank of the Seine River, but at the end of the novel when Nick returns to Paris as a committed artist, he visits “a new Paris,” “a Paris of studios and studies and models” on the Left Bank. Paris encourages the development of the private man, the artist, rather than the public man, the statesman, in Nick Dormer.

*Notre Dame

*Notre Dame. Cathedral on the Ile de la Cité in the heart of Paris. For Nick, this magnificent cathedral, built over the course of several hundred years, represents the beautiful, a work of art that is “done,” completed. James presents the cathedral as a work of art rather than as a religious institution and likens the exterior of the cathedral to a “huge dusky vessel,” “a ship of stone, with its flying buttresses thrown forth like an array of mighty oars.” It is the catalyst that inspires Nick to tell Gabriel Nash, an aesthete, of his desire to become a painter.

*Théâtre Français

*Théâtre Français (tay-ah-tra frahn-say). Now called the...

(The entire section is 805 words.)