Arcadia Literary Elements





Setting and Context

Sidley Park, an English country house in 1809 and the 1990s

Narrator and Point of View

Third-person limited

Tone and Mood

Witty, ironic, cerebral, breathless, curious, impassioned

Protagonist and Antagonist

Thomasina and Hannah (Protagonists); Bernard (Antagonist)

Major Conflict

Major conflicts include the following questions: Will Thomasina make any progress with her equations? Will Bernard find out the truth about Chater and Byron? Will Hannah find out information about her hermit? What will the relationships between the characters be?


After he finishes researching and speculating, Bernard publishes his theory that Byron killed Chater and then fled the country.


The discussion of "Et in Arcadia ego" foreshadows Thomasina's death. Chater dies from a monkey bite. Various clues point to Thomasina's death.


Hannah says, "I've always been given credit for my unconcern" (53).


Allusions include: Fermat's Last Theorem, a popular theorem in mathematics in which Fermat claimed to have discovered a proof that the Diophantine equation x^n+y^n=z^n has no integer solutions for n>2 and x,y,z!=0 (6); he poet Robert Southey and his epic poems "Thalaba" and "Madoc" (11); the lives and love of Byron and Caroline Lamb; Poussin's famous painting "Et in Arcadia ego" (16); Romantic novels by Horace Walpole and Ann Radcliffe (17); chaos theory, the Second Law of Thermodynamics; Thomasina laments the burning of the library at Alexandria (42); and Septimus references the poets Ovid and Virgil to lament Chater's claim to being a poet (46).


See Imagery.


It is a paradox that the world has natural laws but is also chaotic, and within that disorder is order.




Examples of personification include: "Indeed, the pudding does not notice and continues to turn pink just as before" (Thomasina, p. 9) and "But now nature is having the last laugh" (Valentine, p. 49).

Use of Dramatic Devices

Characters are told where to stand, what objects to pick, and that they hear things offstage. There are few classical dramatic devices though (i.e., no choruses, no soliloquies, no asides).