The physical setting of the short story “Early Autumn” by Langston Hughes is New York. More specifically, the entire story takes place in Washington Square, which is a well-known landmark in New York.

The story mentions several other landmarks in New York. Mary lives on Central Park West, and she works “in the bursar’s office at Columbia”, referring to Columbia University. These place names offer authenticity to the story and point to the importance of the setting. 

The two characters seem to have been in New York for a long time before running into each other. The discovery that they have been living in the same city seems to affect them:

‘Mary! Where did you come from?’

Unconsciously, she lifted her face as though wanting a kiss, but he held out his hand. She took it.

‘I live in New York Now,’ she said.

‘Oh’ — smiling politely, then a little frown came quickly between his eyes.

Given that New York is a large metropolis, it is quite likely that Mary and Bill might never see each other again. This is especially true since both have neglected to give each other their addresses. 

The idea that Mary and Bill will once again lose sight of each other in the large metropolis is also highlighted b...

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