Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Libya Hill

Libya Hill. Small North Carolina town in which George is born and raised. It is a sharp, vivid place, where specific buildings are grounded. His uncle’s hardware store is not a vague business in the town proper, but a particular store with certain wares, plate glass windows, and a location relative to other downtown landmarks. George’s parents were divorced shortly after he was born, and after his mother’s death, when George was eight, he moved in with his Aunt Maw in a small house in the backyard of his uncle’s fancier home. George escapes this, however, by going to the front yard of his uncle’s house. From there, he sees the townspeople, and he imagines other lives. In particular, he imagines the life of his father, who also lives in Libya Hill but whom he is not allowed to see. George imagines his father actively participating in the life of the town: going to the barbershop, greeting the other residents, and so forth, or he imagines Pennsylvania, where his father was born.

Libya Hill provides the first web-rock interface for George. His mother’s family is rooted there, and Aunt Maw’s stories bring those roots alive. His father is a bricklayer who built many of the town buildings, a physical demonstration of how Libya Hill is a stable touchstone. It is a small town in which most people are aware of, if not involved in, one another’s business. For example, when George’s parents divorce, the townspeople take sides, condemning either his father or his mother. Every person’s place, physically and mentally, is known not only by that person, but by everyone else, who participate in keeping the person in his or her proper place.

George leaves Libya Hill at age sixteen, when he receives a small inheritance from his father, in order to attend college. During his schooling, George tries...

(The entire section is 757 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Evans, Elizabeth. Thomas Wolfe. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1984. Excellent introduction to The Web and the Rock. Analytically summarizes its episodes and discusses Wolfe’s narrative devices.

Idol, John Lane, Jr. A Thomas Wolfe Companion. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1987. Explains how Wolfe’s editor became virtually his coauthor. Identifies as major themes an artist’s problems in a hostile environment; loneliness; and personal, social, and religious conflicts. Presents a book-by-book plot summary, an explication of symbols, and analyses of characters, all of whom are identified in a glossary.

Kennedy, Richard S. The Window of Memory: The Literary Career of Thomas Wolfe. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1962. Definitively combines biographical data and critical perceptions to fit The Web and the Rock into the evolution of Wolfe’s career.

Ryssel, Fritz Heinrich. Thomas Wolfe. Translated by Helen Sebba. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1972. Shows how Wolfe confronted and partially solved technical and thematic problems resulting from turning to less autobiographical writing in The Web and the Rock.