Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Yewville. Town in New York’s upstate Niagara County where Jesse Harte, one of six children, grows up in a small and crowded house built by his father, Willard, next to a gas station that he owned until it failed. The novel opens when Jesse is fourteen years old and his father turns the family house into a place of horror by shooting his pregnant wife and children, wounding Jesse, who escapes, and then shooting himself. When Jesse later returns to the house, which has a for-sale sign on it, he has no feelings about the murders, only the realization that he is still alive, a survivor. He later returns to Yewville to live with an aunt and uncle.

Vogel farm

Vogel farm. Home of the orphaned Jesse’s stern and unloving grandfather, where he is taken to live after recovering from his gunshot wound. The farm is located in a rural area outside Yewville, in a place where people live empty lives of “sleep, wake, and work.” Grandfather Vogel keeps the shabby furnishings salvaged from Jesse’s former home locked in his barn and refuses to let Jesse see any of them, thereby denying him tangible links to his past.


*Lockport. New York town to whose nearby Niagara School for Boys Jesse is sent by his aunt and uncle to board. At first, he lives in a dark red building enclosed by fences. However he is adopted by Dr. Pedersen, who lives in a three-story mansion on Locust Street in Lockport. Pedersen’s house has a cavernous foyer and a beautiful music room, but what most impresses Jesse is that he has...

(The entire section is 650 words.)