Monday, November 22, 2021

Edward P. Jones & DC’s Four Quadrants

Locations in the Stories

By Kenton Rambsy

The layout of Washington, DC, which is divided into four quadrants Northwest, Northeast, Southwest, and Southeast, contributes to how Edward P. Jones presents characters across DC in his two short story collections Lost in the City (1992) and All Aunt Hagar’s Children (2006).

My colleague Peace Ossom-Williamson and I created a Tableau Public chart that enables readers to visually sift through the mentions of quadrants and settings in a given Edward P. Jones story. The various shades of green represent each of DC’s four quadrants.

In the top left corner, the pie chart represents the percentages of times a specific quadrant appears across his two collections of short stories. To the right, the various boxes represent location types ranging from homes and neighborhoods to schools and churches. The larger the box, the more times a particular setting was used in a specific quadrant.

Hovering over each box reveals the percentage of times the location was used in that quadrant. The bottom charts offer another visualization of the same information in the form of bar charts. This representation ranks the order of location types Jones features in his collections.

The charts provide more context as to how the physical geography of DC fits into Jones’s stories. For instance, even though most of his stories are set in the Nation’s Capital, Jones doesn’t cover all of the neighborhoods in the same manner. Jones primarily sets the action of his stories in the Northwest Quadrant. Within that quadrant, the settings he usually incorporates are homes and neighborhoods, businesses, schools, and other public venues.

This type of visualization shifts our attention to consider what extent Jones’s incorporates specific aspects of DC’s geography into his fictional stories. Moreover, this visualization more clarity as to how readers envision Jones’s stories, and the locations he is most fond of in DC.

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