Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Rotten Row

Rotten Row. Alleyway of slum housing in an unnamed Kent town, where Mountjoy was born and where his earliest memories are located. The name is probably merely colloquial; the only two parts of the town that William Golding names in the novel are Rotten Row, where Mountjoy was a child, and Paradise Hill, where he lives as a successful adult. The symbolism of these names is clearly intentional. Seen through the eyes of an innocent child who generally does not comprehend what he sees, Rotten Row is described at greater length and in far more detail than any other location in the novel. Readers see its dirty terraced houses with outdoor lavatories and the mud and puddles that litter the alley, as well as the petty feuds and rough society that allow people to survive in these grimy circumstances. They also see the pub at the end of the row, which, despite its poverty, aspires to a slightly higher social standing. The small focus of the residents’ lives is shown when the lodger dies, and the upstairs rooms where he lived remain unoccupied, Mountjoy and his prostitute mother continuing to live in their cramped ground-floor rooms.


Town. Unidentified town in southeast England. Despite the stunningly visual passage that opens the book—“I have walked by stalls in the market-place where books, dog-eared and faded from their purple, have burst with a white hosanna”—Mountjoy the artist provides remarkably little in the way of visual detail. Once he leaves the somber colors of Rotten Row for school, the town in which he lives ceases to be a coherent whole and becomes rather...

(The entire section is 668 words.)