Time and physical setting

The short story “The Terrapin” by Patricia Highsmith is probably set in the US as indicated by the references to the character living on “Third Avenue” which is a street on the East Side of New York City. The events are probably meant to be contemporary with the time of publication, sometime in the 1960s.

The physical setting includes elements like the characters’ old and new apartments and the area nearby. At the time of the narration, Victor and his mother live “on the eighteenth floor” of a building block, “next to the top floor where the penthouses were”. The fact that Victor feels he has no privacy there suggests they live in a one-room apartment. By contrast, Victor felt better in their previous Riverside Drive apartment which was bigger: “He wished he had a room of his own to go to. In the apartment on Riverside Drive, there had been three rooms, a living room, and his and his mother’s room.”

Most of the action takes place in the living room and the kitchen. The living room is the main place where the characters interact and where Victor finds the knife with which he kills his mother. The kitchen is where the mother cooks the terrapin, t...

The text shown above is just an extract. Only members can read the full content.

Get access to the full Study Guide.

As a member of, you get access to all of the content.

Sign up now

Already a member? Log in