Matt lives in an area known as the Fen, which is a lower-class area equivalent to a slum in our culture. Kira lives in the village, and those who live in the Fen are closely associated with village people in that they are part of the same large community. The villagers live in cotts (small homes) in a central area near the marketplace and not far from the Edifice. The Fen is farther removed from that area.
When Kira and Thomas venture to the Fen, they first come to an area on the outskirts of their village where the huts are closer together. They then cross a makeshift bridge over a "foul-smelling stream," presumably flowing with human waste and refuse. "Poisonous oleander bushes" border the stream on the Fen side. Kira and Thomas then see a cluster of small cotts. Although the cotts are not that different from the one Kira grew up in, the area in which they are situated is shaded because of the tall trees, and the entire setting is damp and dirty, a breeding ground for disease. The half-clothed children run around with runny noses; the parents seem even more vicious toward their offspring there than in the village.
Kira and Thomas find Matt's cott next to a gnarled, dying, rotted tree, which mirrors the type of home life he has. The cott is in disrepair, and the interior is dark and filthy. The Fen is a place of squalor. Matt's cheerful, buoyant personality stands in stark contrast to his surroundings, making Kira appreciate him even more.