Falkland’s Manor. Country house of the intelligent and well-read English nobleman Ferdinando Falkland. This manor house acts as a focal point for the central theme of the novel: that even the most virtuous and intelligent of people can be corrupted by inherited social power. This house signifies the corruption of Falkland, who personally combines great intelligence with arrogance. When the novel’s hero takes a position as secretary to Falkland, his movement through the house symbolizes his growing knowledge that Falkland has committed murder. Falkland’s efforts to keep his criminality hidden are symbolized by the locked library and chest at the center of the mansion. In a plot movement similar to a fairy-tale, Caleb unlocks hidden and dangerous knowledge when he sneaks into the locked room; there he learns that Falkland has committed murder and allowed others to take the blame for it.
Village. Unnamed English country village populated by poor but honest farmers and overbearing noblemen, this setting demonstrates William Godwin’s concept that people should govern themselves by reason and not by inherited laws and conditions. The landscape of this setting is not described beyond a few simple structures—a few mansions, some simple dwellings, and a few village greens—but the human settings are emphasized. The antagonist in the village is Tyrrel, a vicious and violent nobleman, and it is clear that within this setting Falkland and Tyrrel will eventually struggle for dominance. This struggle is characterized as an abuse of reason and justice, and Falkland—despite his education and civility—is quick to jettison reason if his pride is wounded. A key secondary character cautions Falkland, “You have impetuosity, and an impatience of imagined dishonour, that if once set wrong, may make you...
(The entire section is 766 words.)