Hollingford is representative of many English country towns with old but fading aristocracies; its leading citizens are the count and countess Cumnor. Other residents include figures such as the two Misses Browning, as typical of small English country towns. These women represent the past, frowning here and there with disapproval at change.
Hollingford is a rather dull and slow-paced place, in which the place of women is in the home, doing needlework or reading pretty books and novels. Unlike the Cumnors, not all Hollingford people can go to London or other cosmopolitan centers for a change of air or season. Hollingford is a small community of country folks, with a few exceptions, whose cause for much talk, anticipation, and great preparation is an event at Cumnor Towers or an occasional ball.
Cumnor Towers. Official residence and estate of the count and countess Cumnor, who carry on the old traditions of noblesse oblige by periodically hosting balls for their neighbors to display their gentility and refinement. The count and countess live in waning gentility, and their daughter, Lady Harriet, is almost radical in her views; she represents a major change in the country’s social and class structures.
Gibson home. Modest Hollingford home of Molly Gibson and her widowed father. Reared by her father, she is not completely free to show any sentimental or emotional feeling in this domestic space. With all of her existing unvoiced emotions, Molly has to endure the ways and whims of a new stepmother in this house, her private space. Mr. Gibson and his daughter have to adjust to his new wife’s penchant for posh domesticity and her emulative taste of the aristocratic Cumnors’ refinement. Mr. Gibson’s forced silence in all of his wife’s wishes and whims and his preoccupation with his medical duties leave little attention for Molly’s innermost feelings and suffering. Eventually, this home becomes a prison to Molly.
Hamley Hall. Family home and estate of Squire Hamley, which represents an aspect of country society that contrasts strongly to that of the aristocracy. From an ancient family whose wealth depends on advantageous marriages, he is eccentric and cantankerous but at heart quite compassionate. He tries to uphold feudal traditions in a time of social change; Hamley Hall estate and its dwindling fortune represent the old feudal ways.