Study Guide

When Harry Met Sally Setting

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The Big Apple in the Late '80s

Annie Hall. Moonstruck. You've Got Mail. The Apartment. Breakfast at Tiffany's.

There are so many classic romantic comedies set in New York, we hardly know where to start. When Harry Met Sally wasn't the first rom com to use the Big Apple as its Big Backdrop, and it certainly wasn't the last.

While the characters don't spend much time discussing the city or its people, New York, New York is the elephant in every room. The characters spend their time in New York City restaurants and apartments, discussing their big city neuroses. And when they're not doing that, they're strolling through the streets and sites of NYC.

While the most visually memorable New York scene is probably the one that graces When Harry Met Sally's cover, Shmoop thinks the most iconic New York backdrop is the unforgettable scene in the Egyptian room of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The autumn leaves of Central Park can be seen through the window, and Reiner includes several wide shots to remind you: Harry and Sally are just two neurotic people in a city chock-full of neurotic people. But hey, at least there's good art.

Of course, we can't forget to mention the Washington Square Arch. When Harry and Sally first arrive in New York, they part ways beneath the familiar New York landmark. And at the very end of the movie, as Harry wanders the streets of New York, slowly realizing he's got the feels for Sally in a big way, he stops by the arch and reminisces about their entire relationship. How's that for using place to parallel character development?

Apartments and Restaurants

For all its New Yorkiness, the movie doesn't actually spend a whole lot of time on sweeping vistas of the skyline and romantic meetings atop the Empire State Building (we're looking at you, An Affair to Remember). Instead, much of the movie is spent in apartments and restaurants. Why? Because this is a movie almost exclusively made up of conversations between friends. And where do friends converse? You guessed it: apartments and restaurants.

Of course, those apartments can tell us a great deal about our characters. Harry's apartment is big, cold, and pretty empty. We guess Helen and Mr. Zero took all the furniture. It's fitting that Harry would take forever to redecorate. After all, he can't even manage to use the entire bed.

Sally's apartment, on the other hand is softer and cozier. She's got yellow striped wallpaper and a flowery quilt, for crying out loud. And Jess and Marie? They've got a gigantic place, complete with French doors and a den, which helps to remind us of their success as a couple. A happy marriage makes for a happy home. Well, that and a whole boatload of rent money.

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