The Known World Setting & Symbolism

Edward P. Jones
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Manchester County, Virginia

The setting of most of the novel, Manchester County is the largest county in the Commonwealth of Virginia, heavily wooded, prosperous, and largely crimeless. The dusty town is sketched only lightly. The sheriff's office and the barn behind it which sometimes houses prisoners, alone receive attention. Spreading out around the town are plantations, most prominently those of rivals William Robbins and Robert Colfax, who largely determine who will serve as sheriff. Henry Townsend's land neighbors Robbins's land. Townsend bought his first acres of land from Robbins. Henry's parents moved as far away from the white-owned plantations as they could, on the southern border. Fern Elston lives about eight miles from her friend Caldonia.

The Townsend Plantation

Henry's death leaves widow Caldonia substantial cotton fields, a slave quarter, a still little-used cemetery, and the fine two-story house he and slave Moses built. The Robbins plantation neighbors...

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This section contains 182 words
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Buy The Known World Study Guide
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