Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Sawston. English town that is home to the conventional middle-class Herriton family. E. M. Forster modeled this dreary, repressive town on Tonbridge, Kent, southeast of London, where he himself had attended school. A gray place preoccupied with duty, respectability, and tradition, Sawston represents the worst of English repression of self and others.

When family friend Caroline Abbott later dreams of the Italian town Poggibonsi as a “joyless, straggling place, full of people who pretended,” she recognizes it as Sawston. At the end of the novel, Philip Herriton’s growth is evident in his decision to move from his hometown to London. (Forster also uses Sawston to symbolize English middle-class deadness in his second novel, The Longest Journey, 1907.)


*Tuscany. Region of west-central Italy along the Ligurian and Tyrrhenian Seas that includes the provinces of Firenze (Florence), Pisa, Livorno, and Siena. Forster’s depiction of the Tuscan landscape draws on a long holiday he took there in 1901. Particularly close echoes of his travels come in his description of Philip and Harriet Herriton’s tourist hardships in several cities while they are on their way to Monteriano. Harriet, to whom “foreigners are a filthy nation,” embodies strong English chauvinism and is the only traveler unresponsive to the magic of Italy.


Monteriano (mahn-teh-ree-AHN-oh). Hill town in Tuscany modeled on San Gimignano southwest of Florence and northwest of Siena, which is one of the best preserved medieval towns in Italy. Forster invents a description of his fictionalized town for his characters’ tour book, which characterizes Monteriano as a town with 4,800...

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(Great Characters in Literature)

Furbank, P. N. E. M. Forster: A Life. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1978. An exhaustive biography of Forster that also serves as a source of cultural information concerning Forster’s settings in England, Italy, and India.

McConkey, James. The Novels of E. M. Forster. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1957. McConkey attempts to judge Forster’s fiction in relation to the critical principles outlined in Aspects of the Novel (1927), Forster’s book-length study of the genre.

Trilling, Lionel. E. M. Forster. 2d ed. New York: New Directions, 1964. Appreciative readings of Forster’s works that are intended to elevate the novelist to the artistic status he deserves. Forster is seen as a practitioner of what Trilling termed the “liberal imagination.”

Wilde, Alan. Art and Order: A Study of E. M. Forster. New York: New York University Press, 1964. Focuses on Forster’s practice of and contribution to the aesthetic view of life. The value of beauty in human existence, and art’s role in defining beauty, are the motivating issues in Wilde’s first chapter, which begins with a discussion of Where Angels Fear to Tread.