Places Discussed

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 286

London flat

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London flat. One-room setting for the play’s entire three acts. The time setting is contemporary with the writing. The room is in a run-down house in a run-down area in the west side of London, several of whose districts are mentioned—Shepherd’s Bush, Camden Town, and Finsbury Park. The poor state of the room is instrumental to the plot. A bucket catches rainwater dripping through its leaking roof. The room has no washing or cooking facilities, and there is no heat. The only window is half-covered with a sack, letting in a draft and the rain.

Only Aston’s bed is visible; Davies’ bed is covered by mundane items that form a surreal collection when heaped together. They include a kitchen sink (a nod to the “kitchen-sink” realism of British playwrights of the period), a stepladder, a coal bucket, a lawn mower, a shopping trolley, boxes, and the drawers of a sideboard. All these items must be moved before Davies can sleep on his bed. Beside the bed is a gas stove. Though it is clearly not connected, Davies complains about its presence and the danger of fire or explosion.

Elsewhere in the room are a cupboard containing such items as a clothes horse upon which Davies sometimes hangs his trousers at night, piles of boxes and newspapers, and an electric toaster, which Aston tries to fix throughout the play.

There are other rooms “along the landing” that also belong to the brothers; they are apparently in even worse condition. Beyond the window, to the rear, is an overgrown garden for which Aston has plans—he wants to clear it and build a shed; however, it seems obvious that he never will.

Historical Context

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 622

The years following victory in World War II were a time of hardship in Britain. A 1947 fuel crisis left many without heat, and food shortages resulted in the continuation of wartime rationing well into the late-1940s. These years also saw a serious housing shortage. During the war, when construction of housing had ceased, two hundred thousand houses were completely destroyed and half a million more required extensive repair. Some Britons saw hope for the future in socialism, and the late-1940s saw the development of the Welfare State, which placed responsibility for the relief of the poor on the government. In 1946, the National Insurance Act and the National Health Service Act were passed, providing insurance and medical care to the poor. The National Assistance Act was developed to provide a safety net for the poor. Many believed that new government policies would end poverty altogether.

Such optimistic assessments, however, were soon proven false. In addition, those who saw socialism as a solution to Britain's problems were disillusioned by the Soviet Union's 1956 invasion of Hungary, which showed that a socialist system could be as violent and corrupt as any other political system.

These years also saw a decline in Britain's status among nations. Previous generations had said that the sun would never set on the British empire, but now that empire was crumbling, with former colonies such as India gaining freedom from British rule. In 1956, the Suez crisis, in which Britain was condemned by the United Nations for its attempt to gain control of the Suez Canal in Egypt, resulted in international humiliation for the former empire. British troops were forced to withdraw, and the Prime Minister resigned over the incident.

In spite of political difficulties, however, the late-1950s saw some domestic economic recovery, and Britain saw the rise of a consumer culture focusing on the acquisition of material goods. Ownership of what were formerly luxury items, such as refrigerators, washing machines, and automobiles, rose significantly between 1953 and...

(The entire section contains 2544 words.)

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