Places: Other Voices, Other Rooms

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1948

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Psychological realism

Time of work: Mid-twentieth century

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*New Orleans

*New Other Voices, Other RoomsOrleans. Louisiana city that is Joel’s hometown. It is a place where he feels isolated and alone, but one that nurtures his growing interest in the adult world. He never feels at home in New Orleans. Feeling like an outsider, he often skips school and hangs out with older, African American fruit pickers. His alienation from the gloomy city is not helped by his lack of friends and parents, and he daydreams about stowing away on a banana boat to Central America and becoming an adult with a good job in some foreign city. In his dreams, he wants to be as far away as possible from New Orleans.

Paradise Chapel

Paradise Chapel. Rustic Louisiana village meant to represent rural Louisiana as a whole. During the summer, the town is a dusty place full of truck drivers transporting interstate goods. For Joel, it is a point of transition in his voyage from New Orleans to his new final destination. His genealogical attachment to the land of the American South is symbolized by the big luggage that belonged to his Confederate great grandfather. Joel is carrying a piece of history with him in a rusty and dusty town of the Deep South that pays no attention to a sensitive boy who is alienated from his own geographical roots.

Noon City

Noon City. Another small Louisiana town. Upon entering Noon City, Joel has a singular experience that is tied to the mysteries and perversions of the location. The town is so rustic that it appears to belong to an era fifty or one hundred years earlier than the time in which the novel is set. The old-fashioned town has a saloon, a confectionery, and a barber shop/dental clinic that is run by a man who is himself badly in need of a shave. With its bizarre cast of characters, Noon City resembles a carnival more than a real town. It is so lacking in culture and refinement that Joel orders a beer in its saloon. In an act of kindness, the proprietor, an obese woman who looks as alien to him as the town itself, instead gives him a soda pop. Joel feels completely out of his element in this place, where similar kindnesses tend to be rare occurrences.

Skully’s Landing

Skully’s Landing. Decaying mansion in Noon City where Joel meets his father for the first time. The old mansion seems to contain more human perversity and atmospheric strangeness than all the rest of Noon City. The moment Joel arrives there, he is alienated from the place because there is no sign of his father’s presence. Instead, he is greeted by his strange bird-killing stepmother and her debauched brother, who give the environment a morbid atmosphere.

Joel hates Skully’s Landing not because it has no running water, proper plumbing, or electricity, but because of the ghosts and strange voices he hears often. He finds no true friends or confidantes, except a good-hearted black woman, whom his stepmother treats as if she were a family slave in the Old South–which seems to lurk just beneath the surface of the place–and a tomboy girl, for whom he develops romantic stirrings. Of all the places to which Joel goes, Skully’s Landing is the worst. It tests his inner spirit and his humanity as he desires so badly to discover human goodness. It is not a place than can provide what Joel needs.

Cloud Hotel

Cloud Hotel. Old hotel in Noon City in which Joel makes a shocking discovery. One morning he wakes up and sees that the mule that has carried him and his uncle to the hotel is dead, hanging by its neck from a ceiling beam. Cloud Hotel, like Skully’s Landing, tests the limits of Joel’s mental endurance. Its perverse sights stand for the aberrations of the Deep South against which Joel can do nothing in this alien place.

BibliographyCapote, Truman. Preface to Other Voices, Other Rooms. New York: Random House, 1968. Reflects on his first novel, explaining the source of its inspiration and discussing its autobiographical nature. Reading Capote’s insights into his own work enriches the reading of the novel.Clarke, Gerald. Capote: A Biography. New York: Ballantine, 1989. Well-documented from primary sources, including seven years of interviews with Capote. Other Voices, Other Rooms gets extensive coverage, from publication to theme to the novel’s symbolism. Gives Capote’s view on the homosexuality in the novel. Bibliography, notes, and an annotated index.Moates, Marianne M. A Bridge of Childhood: Truman Capote’s Southern Years. 1st ed. New York: Henry Holt, 1989. A compilation of stories about Capote’s childhood, giving background on Joel Knox as an autobiographical character. The pathos in Joel Knox comes from Capote’s investing his adult sense of abandonment in the child character.Nance, William L. The Worlds of Truman Capote. Briarcliff Manor, N.Y.: Stein and Day, 1970. Illuminates Capote’s insight on his use of imagination. A full chapter on Other Voices, Other Rooms. Provides a plot summary and thorough analysis of themes in the novel.Reed, Kenneth T. Truman Capote. Boston: Twayne: 1981. Gives extensive plot summary and analysis of Other Voices, Other Rooms.
Categories: Places