It is clear that as Crispin leaves his isolated village and moves further south, eventually arriving at Great Wexly, he is greatly shocked and challenged by what he sees and the sheer number of people he is exposed to. He comes to realise that people live their lives in a very different way in big cities, and that there are large settlements where things are done in a very different way from what he is used to. What surprises him perhaps most of all is the stench of garbage:
Still, what assaulted my senses more than anything--aside from sheer numbers of people of all ages and the ensuing cacophony--was the stench that filled the air...
He goes on to say that in the village where he grew up, refuse was dispatched and taken care of behind people's houses. What he sees in Great Wexly is "foulness" on the streets where everybody walked. This of course shocks him. Gradually, as the novel continues therefore, the reader sees how Crispin moves from being a very innocent young boy to becoming an experienced well-travelled young man who understands much more of the ways of the world.