Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*London. Great Britain’s capital city and largest metropolis. Muriel Spark’s characters do not inhabit the showplace London of St. Paul’s Cathedral and Buckingham Palace. Instead, she sets her story in London’s grubby, everyday, lower-middle-class and middle-class residential corners. Events unfold in coffeehouses, grocery shops, quirky private clubs such as the Pandaemonium, and old houses subdivided into apartments.

None of the characters in The Bachelors appears to be married (except, perhaps, Patrick Seton). Some have been married, some want to be married, others avoid marriage—but all are alone. Patrick, for example, avoids any close connection. He notes that it is easier to escape a pursuing woman in the provinces than in London—where, as he sees it, a woman knows everyone her man knows and can track a fleeing fellow down. The pervasive claustrophobia that Spark creates derives fundamentally from the restricted areas in which the characters move. There is only occasional talk of the world outside London. Patrick, the sinister spiritualist medium/confidence man and forger, imagines escaping to Austria—where he plans to murder Alice, the waitress whom he has impregnated. However, his plans never materialize.

Spark thus cleverly represents in physical terms the themes on which she focuses—tension between the material and the spiritual, contrasts between people who long for love and...

(The entire section is 593 words.)