Asterisk denotes entries on real places.
*Harvard University. Venerable New England center of learning in which Eugene enrolls. There, removed from the stifling elements of his youth, he grows enamored with the possibilities of his new life. His hunger for knowledge and intellectual growth make him open to learning from books and from life experience. He continues to develop his sharp eye for the peculiarities and inconsistencies of human nature. In a writing class, he becomes inspired and dreams of earning fame as a playwright. He believes that an answer to the loneliness and despair he has always been prey to might be found in a vast outpouring of language. He has begun to see his world expand, and he desires to engage an even larger world. Harvard and nearby Boston symbolize early hope, the seeds of education and the beginnings of a perspective from which Eugene can write about his experience.
*New York City. Great northern city in which Eugene settles after finishing college. With his extravagant hunger for new experiences, he approaches the city’s energy, wealth, and possibilities with high expectations. He hopes for success in playwriting, relationships, and self-knowledge. At first, he succeeds in expanding his circle of acquaintances, sensing the deep bonds that unite him with his fellow man. However, he eventually becomes disillusioned. Teaching college English gives him little sense of accomplishment. His writing career does not take off; his idea of the glamour of the wealthy life is hollow; and his hopes for meaningful relationships fall flat. He seems to sense that to reach his true destiny, his life must be linked to a woman, so he is inclined toward romantic hopes and adventures, but these too lead nowhere. Eugene’s life in New York becomes one of frustration and disappointment. At the same time, however, the city symbolizes a key place for his obsession with processing all experience.
*France. Eugene continues his restless wanderings as he hopes to find in Europe the inspiration and purpose that have eluded him in America. In Paris he encounters Starwick, Ann, and Elinor–friends from America. He visits the sites of the city with them, feeling a paradoxical mixture of appeal and revulsion for them. He comes to realize how void and unpromising are his relationships.
Eugene also visits other cities in France–Chartres, Orleans, Tours, Lyons, Marseilles, and Cherbourg,–but what once seemed exciting with its possibilities now fills him with weariness and distaste. For example, he comes to believe that the notions of class and caste governing society are vastly mistaken. His personal hopes come to naught, but he begins to realize that he must return to America to discover himself. As he boards the ship for home, he hears the voice of a woman named Esther who, he feels, will be his true love and a key to his future. Thus, France, for all of its disappointment, yet proves to be a place where Eugene begins to get a grip on the nameless fury that drives him.