Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Riverfront

Riverfront. Tenement house, nestled under a soaring bridge and surrounded by huts, which shelters street people and demonstrates that the streets of America are not paved with gold nor is America in fact the proverbial “land of milk and honey.” The bridge span hovering over this depressed area symbolizes oppression, which shadows and darkens this neighborhood and its population. By specifying neither the city nor the state, the description of this place implies that both the scene and action could take place in any city or state.

Basement apartment

Basement apartment. The ceiling of the apartment is covered with huge pipes and suggests some huge predator, a constrictor or perhaps an octopus, which somehow holds the inhabitants there and prevents them from escaping. The warm interior suggests a sanctuary when contrasted to the cold and sleet outside, but in reality, it is a trap disguised as a haven.

The interior and exterior scenes alternate throughout the drama. The oppressive and stifling exterior is equated with the exploitation of the weak and powerless. These human flotsam and jetsam attempt to eke out an honest but meager living. However, they are thwarted by the very laws designed to protect them. The law enforcement officer is not a friend but an oppressor. The interior trap suggests that hidden prejudices, such as anti-Semitism, rob individuals of opportunities and dignity until the only possibility left to them is a life of crime. In this world, the powerful and the criminal are protected, while the hopes and dreams of the innocent are murdered. This could happen in any city or state in America.