Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

St. Botolphs

St. Botolphs. Massachusetts town, introduced in The Wapshot Chronicle as an old river town, that becomes in The Wapshot Scandal a seat of virtue and value in a corrupting, debased world. Cheever recapitulates his presentation of the town in the first pages of the second book, beginning with the square in the town’s center and then moving out to show the shops and homes which, in their individual characteristics, exemplify the positive attributes that Cheever admires.

In spite of the inevitable pressures wrought by changing economic conditions, the town is still a place of decorum and relative tranquillity. Its comparative insularity, which makes it seem quaint and old-fashioned, affords a place of refuge to its inhabitants, so that Coverly Wapshot exclaims on its “pathos and beauty” after returning from the outside world. He regards his aunt Honora’s bizarre behavior as one of the “eccentric niceties” of the village.

At the book’s close, Cheever steps out of the omniscient authority of the narrative to compose an envoi to his real/fictional setting, admitting “I love this water and its shores; love it absurdly as if I could marry the view.” The novel is his paean to a place that he feared was soon to be lost forever. On the last page of the novel, Cheever regretfully states about St. Botolphs, “I will never come back” and adds, “if I do there will be nothing left . . . there will really be nothing at all.”


(The entire section is 617 words.)