Places: Studs Lonigan

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1935: Young Lonigan: A Boyhood in Chicago Streets, 1932; The Young Manhood of Studs Lonigan, 1934; Judgment Day, 1935

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Naturalism

Time of work: 1916-1931

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*Chicago

*Chicago. Studs LoniganCity of the street tough Studs Lonigan’s birth, youth, and eventual death. From 1916 to 1931, Chicago goes through significant changes. Once insulated into distinct ethnic neighborhoods with the different racial components seriously “turf” conscious, it gradually becomes more racially, culturally, and politically diversified, and the subsequent changes play havoc with Studs’s self-esteem. The political corruption and petty crime that allow Studs to see himself as a self-proclaimed tough guy shift as he grows older. The adult responsibilities he is forced to take on during the Great Depression wreck his confidence in himself. Throughout his life, however, the streets of Chicago remain the one constant in his life even as they evolve; they hold Studs to what he has been and hopes to become.

*Fifty-eighth and Indiana Avenue

*Fifty-eighth and Indiana Avenue. Chicago neighborhood in which young Studs and his gang hang out. From his early adolescence, this street corner is the place where Studs feels he is a force to be reckoned with; here he establishes his reputation as a tough guy. When Studs is a boy, the mostly Irish Catholic neighborhood has private homes and apartment buildings housing Irish families, and Studs can always walk down its streets and feel true to himself. In later years, when he is in his late twenties, he occasionally returns to the old neighborhood–now filled with Jewish and African American residents and no Irish–and may still be reminded of the “good old days” of his youth.

*Washington Park

*Washington Park. City park near Studs’s neighborhood. Full of trees, flowers, shrubbery, grassy lawns, playgrounds, and a lagoon, the park is a veritable Garden of Eden to the young Studs. There he spends one memorable, tender afternoon with Lucy Scanlon, a girl for whom he has strong and lasting feelings. When he is older, he often drifts to this park for less idealistic or romantic reasons; it becomes a place to pick up girls, to play roughhouse prairie football, or to ditch high school classes. In spite of the occasional pedophiles and perverts lurking about, trying to lure youngsters such as Studs, the park is most often a place where Studs allows himself to dream of what he could be and do and to aspire to being a better person.

Lonigan home

Lonigan home. Apartment in a building owned by Studs’s father. For many years, this well-appointed apartment represents an impressive achievement of Mr. Lonigan, an uneducated man who has pulled himself up by his bootstraps to become a successful painting contractor. The home he provides for his family has everything it needs for his caring wife, two sons, and two daughters to live comfortably. After the neighborhood is “overrun” by people he considers undesirable (Jews and African Americans), the Lonigans sell out and regretfully move to a new building in a new neighborhood. All the while, Studs remains living with his father, mother, and brother even as he nears the age of thirty. (Both sisters marry well and live with their husbands.)

Saloon and poolroom

Saloon and poolroom. Places where Studs and his friends most often hang out during their late adolescence and young manhood. At the saloon Studs gets drunk for the first of many times in his life. There, he and his friends talk about all kinds of things, but mostly girls they would like to “make” or to have made, about people they would like to beat up, about politics and social issues that mostly reveal their racial and political prejudices. Non-Irish outsiders are looked upon with suspicion and often treated with threatening disdain, so much so that strangers rarely venture into these domains. After Prohibition starts, the poolroom becomes almost as popular as the saloon has been, even though it changes ownership and eventually goes out of business altogether.

BibliographyBeach, Joseph Warren. American Fiction, 1920-1940. New York: Macmillan, 1941. Farrell’s fiction examined in the context of his contemporaries. Sections dealing with themes in Studs Lonigan include “James T. Farrell: Tragedy of the Poolroom Loafer” and “JTF: The Plight of the Children.”Branch, Edgar M. James T. Farrell. New York: Twayne, 1971. A sound assessment of Farrell’s achievement as well as a perceptive interpretation of his aesthetic philosophy. Two separate chapters deal with Studs Lonigan specifically.Frohock, William M. The Novel of Violence in America, 1920-1950. Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1958. In a section entitled “James T. Farrell: The Precise Content,” there is an analysis of the novelist’s “documentary” style of writing that is much in evidence in the trilogy.Walcutt, Charles C. American Literary Naturalism: A Divided Stream. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1956. An analytical account of naturalistic literary theory and Farrell’s “aspects of telling the whole truth.”Wald, Alan M. James T. Farrell: The Revolutionary Socialist Years. New York: New York University Press, 1978. A thorough historical account of Farrell’s intellectual roots and evolving political stance. Important for an understanding of the sociopolitical underpinnings of the trilogy.
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