Places: The Heat of the Day

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1949

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Psychological realism

Time of work: 1942-1944

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*London

*London. Heat of the Day, TheGreat Britain’s capital city that provides the novel’s primary setting. London is the center of the last European Allied country to withstand German conquest, although it endures continuous German bombing attacks. These attacks cause enormous destruction to the city, leaving no area untouched–including the royal Buckingham Palace. Seeking cover in air raid shelters becomes a daily occurrence for Londoners, for whom being roused from sleep by air raid sirens is a nightly ritual. Smoke from each night’s bombs drifts throughout the city, giving off an acrid smell. Melancholy nights filled with the ever-present danger of falling bombs evokes the darkened mood in London and becomes almost surreal.


*Ireland. Island country west of Britain that Stella visits on family business. Ireland remains neutral throughout the war and is depicted in the novel as representing what is still good and innocent as the war rages elsewhere. When she visits Mount Morris, she finds it a pastoral retreat from the devastation of London. Meanwhile, the British are unable to understand why the Irish do not join the alliance against Germany; to prevent Ireland from supporting Germany, Britain blockades Ireland’s main ports. Stella’s son Roderick claims that Cousin Nettie’s madness is a result of Ireland’s decision not to fight against Germany.

Holme Dene

Holme Dene. Foreboding Irish family home of Robert Kelway, the enemy spy, where Stella goes to meet Kelway’s parents. Built around 1910, the house is three stories high and much too large for the four people living in it. It has French windows and three balconies. Begonias grow in flowerbeds under each window, and the grounds have a tennis court, a pergola, a sundial, a rock garden, a dovecote, a seesaw, and a birdbath. The interior of the house has dark furniture, and its heavy draperies allow little light to enter its dark interior. Holme Dene appears to be linked to a horrible and evil power. The surrounding woods seem to be bewitched.

Mount Morris

Mount Morris. Rodney family estate in southern Ireland that Stella’s son inherits from her cousin Francis. After visiting Holme Dene, Stella goes to Mount Morris to attend to her son’s interests because he is legally underage and is away in the army. In contrast to what she experiences at Holme Dene, she feels that Mount Morris seems to exist outside of time. Harrison, the British counterspy, describes Mount Morris as a white elephant whose last owner has badly neglected, leaving its heating, lighting, and plumbing systems in almost their original states. Moreover, he claims that the estate’s farm uses equipment known in his grandfather’s day.

When Cousin Francis was alive, he lived much of his life in his home’s library, in which an ancient smell emanates from the books that line the walls, and oil paintings are arranged over the fireplace. To complete the feeling of antiquity, a Shakespearean calendar from 1927 hangs in the room. Despite this antiquated atmosphere, the young and innocent Roderick will put his Irish estate to proper use. It is an illusion of pastoral innocence that to Roderick represents a future of possibilities that other characters in the novel lack; it thus becomes the center of his imaginary life. Roderick understands the obligations of possession and heritage in a way that the inhabitants of Holme Dene do not.

BibliographyAustin, Allen E. Elizabeth Bowen. Rev. ed. Boston: Twayne, 1989. Good introduction that discusses Bowen’s style, syntax, use of narrator, and evocative settings. Provides a detailed analysis of the setting, theme, and character in The Heat of the Day, comparing Bowen’s portrayal of three English classes with Forster’s. Helpful annotated bibliography.Glendinning, Victoria. Elizabeth Bowen: Portrait of a Writer. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1977. Primarily a biography, with some literary criticism interspersed. Often referred to, it provides good background material.Heath, William. Elizabeth Bowen: An Introduction to Her Novels. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1961. Good introductory source. Provides clear analysis of setting, character, and theme in The Heat of the Day, revealing the novel’s use of the Faust motif and connecting private anguish and public disaster.Jordon, Heather Bryant. How Will the Heart Endure: Elizabeth Bowen and the Landscape of War. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1992. An especially relevant topic when studying The Heat of the Day. Jordan discusses Bowen as an Anglo-Irish writer and the attitudes that she displays toward war as a result of her heritage. Not all the works are discussed, but the book contains a well-researched bibliography.Kenney, Edwin, Jr. Elizabeth Bowen. Lewisburg, Pa: Bucknell University Press, 1974. Presents connections between the personal world of the Anglo-Irish country house and the larger world of international affairs and between public and privates concerns. Also stresses the importance of Bowen’s setting during the bombing of London, which intensifies the feelings of her characters.Lassner, Phyllis. Elizabeth Bowen. London: Macmillan, 1990. Analyzes Bowen’s novels in somewhat technical prose with a feminist slant. Included is a brief summary of Bowen’s life and a useful bibliography.Lee, Hermione. Elizabeth Bowen: An Estimation. Totowa, N.J.: Barnes & Noble Books, 1981. Excellent introduction. Emphasizes the novel’s use of structure, style, and syntactical mannerisms such as inversion, double negatives, and passive constructions, to reveal the emotional state of the characters’ lives and the turmoil of wartime London.Rule, Jane. Lesbian Images. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1975. Contains a chapter on Bowen but concentrates mostly on her final novel, Eva Trout. Focuses not so much on the literature as on how women writers fit into and influence the society of their times. Useful as background reading.
Categories: Places