The Hersland family is substantially more prosperous than most of their neighbors, whom Stein repeatedly refers to as a “poor queer kind of people.” The Herslands are shown in contact with a multicultural population quite different from the social class that their family fortune makes available. The interchange and friction between the first-generation immigrants of Gossols and the social strata toward which David Hersland inclines provides part of the tension that energizes and unsettles the members of the Hersland family.
Hersland house. Gossols home of the Herslands. The house is a relic from the days when Gossols was beginning. Built of wood, it is of medium size, standing on rising ground, surrounded by grass that becomes dry in summer. A vegetable garden, fruit trees, and hay fields provide sustenance. One of Stein’s infrequent descriptive passages evokes the essence of the Herslands’ life with a lyric effusion that celebrates the pleasures of eating radishes with soil still sticking to them, of planting seeds, and of running fully into a strong wind.
Bridgepoint. Atlantic coastal town that represents the old Eastern establishment that controlled the social and cultural norms of the United States through the nineteenth century. Stein’s second primary family, the Dehnings, is an exemplar of this, as its members have been born and reared in Bridgepoint; they all also have both city and country homes.
Dehning houses. The Dehnings’ country house is a large and commodious house, with spacious lawns, great meadows, and open marshes leading down to salt water, where the Dehnings ride horses, sail, and fish. Their city house itself is an emblem of their prosperity, although a “nervous restlessness of luxury” runs through it. Stein likens the house to a “splendid canvas” painted over but full of empty space. The house’s decor is redolent of an older time, of confidence and affluence, with a parlor filled with ornate marbles on onyx stands. These and other details of acquisition link American life with an older European refinement. Stein summarizes this aspect of the Dehning family by saying of Julia Dehning that “Eastern living was natural to her being,” and that when she is in Gossols, she is “cut off from Eastern living.”
Farnham College. Liberal arts college for women somewhere in the western United States at which Martha Hersland’s husband, Philip Redfern, teaches. Born in a small southwestern town, Redfern is a representative of rural America, and Farnham College is depicted as a “democratic community,” a reflection of Stein’s experiences at Radcliffe and at Johns Hopkins.