Asterisk denotes entries on real places.
Diamond County. Once-rural region of New Jersey that is being transformed by the forces of the mid-twentieth century that Updike recognizes as inevitable but which he regrets to an extent. John Hook, the central narrative consciousness, remembers how as a boy he could go to the top of a hill and not see a house in any direction, whereas now there does not seem to be any space east of the Alleghenies where a person can stand and not be in hailing distance of a house. This motif is emphasized by Hook’s references to his boyhood, his life work as a teacher in a village school near the river, and the relative isolation of the families there. Especially significant is his view of the state of Pennsylvania across the river, which he once thought of as “westerly wilderness.”
*Delaware River. River forming part of the New York-New Jersey and New Jersey-Pennsylvania borders. At a later stage of his life, after his retirement but before he moves into the Home, Hook lives with his daughter in a house outside the town beside the Delaware. The river functions in the novel as an emblem of passage and as a barrier that separates and isolates individual communities. Hook recalls that a road passed near the house, and that on a bend in the road, a modest store, little more than a shack, served passing motorists. When the “combine” (a petroleum corporation) closes the store, the older winding road is replaced by an interstate highway; the transition from river to country road to limited-access turnpike signifies the change in the countryside.
Andrews. New Jersey town whose residents visit the Diamond County Home during its the annual fair. There, Updike draws on his detailed sense of Shillington, although his presentation is fragmented so that aspects of the town appear in brief vignettes in accordance with his intention to use some techniques of the “new novel” in The Poorhouse Fair. The perspective shifts, as a boy walking with his grandfather first sees the wall surrounding the home. Hook calls the town a “backwater,” most of whose inhabitants are only a few generations removed from farm owners. People at the fair talk about the past, about roads and schools and old houses that give an impression of the town’s substance and heritage.
Sky. The weather is a noteworthy element of the novel and plays an important part in the ways its characters respond to events of the day. Updike uses reactions to the skyscape as a method to reveal and illuminate character, as in Hook’s observation that the sky is “savage red” in the morning, a portent of the coming storm, his exultation when rain lifts, and the way residents of the home join together in “raucous, cruel exhilaration” when the west wing of their building receives the benefit of the setting sun.