*Frankfort. Kentucky city in which the crucial event of the novel occurs: the assassination of Colonel Cassius Fort, a prominent state politician. A young attorney, Jeremiah Beaumont, is avenging the earlier seduction and presumed slander of the woman who is now his wife. Beaumont’s trial is also held in a Frankfort courtroom where, not surprisingly, he is convicted through perjury rather than evidence. Awaiting his public hanging, Beaumont is joined in his cell by his wife, Rachael, who wishes to share his fate.
Saul County. Fictional Kentucky county modeled on Simpson County of the real Kentucky tragedy. Rachael’s family has retreated to rural Kentucky from the more favored regions of Virginia, after reversals of fortune. Suffering both emotional and cultural exile, they live in relative isolation, comforted by a few books salvaged from more favored times, including the romantic verse of Lord Byron.
La Grand’Bosse’s refuge
La Grand’Bosse’s refuge. This setting, somewhere in a southwest direction, totally departs from the historical record of “the Kentucky Tragedy” and has generally been regarded as the novel’s least effective location, but it is essential to the development of Warren’s own themes. His characters, unlike their real-life models, are rescued from their Frankfort prison and taken to the lair of a half-breed pirate, La Grand’Bosse. The outlaw refuge serves as a further means of Beaumont’s enlightenment. Throughout the narrative he has spoken of “going west,” sharing the American myth of the West as a land of escape. Now, as he fraternizes with the utter dregs of society, he sees the untamed territory as it is, a land of lawlessness, gracelessness, and even further treachery.