Sarsaparilla. Fictional suburb west of Sydney in which most of the action unfolds. It is probably based on Castle Hill, the actual Sydney suburb where White lived from 1946, when he returned to Australia after serving in World War II, until 1963, when he moved into the city. Although White had previously set plays in Sarsaparilla, this is the first time he used it in his fiction.
While inner Sydney offers spectacular views as it stretches gracefully around the magnificent harbor and along the ocean cliffs, the landscape changes dramatically once the harbor and sea disappear. Sarsaparilla is situated in this colorless, flat, and dusty expanse. Once a rural area of small farms, it gradually became more thickly settled as working-class families moved out of the city into housing developments in their search for a better life. Their cheap, poorly built houses, each with a well-tended yard, may represent security and happiness for their inhabitants, but White unmasks this supposedly ideal community. His version of Sarsaparilla is dominated by hypocrisy, ignorance, cruelty, rigid conformity, and just plain bad taste. Another suburb, Paradise East, may be more upscale, but underneath its pretentious exterior it resembles Sarsaparilla.
In spite of the physical ugliness and personal emptiness of these suburbs, four of the characters conquer the environs, discover their potential, and become “riders in the chariot.”...
(The entire section is 540 words.)