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...

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(Great Characters in Literature)

Babb, Howard S. The Novels of William Golding. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1970. One chapter is given to each novel. Babb’s strength in writing on Free Fall is his introductory analysis of Golding’s style.

Boyd, S. J. The Novels of William Golding. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1988. Boyd’s volume is contemporaneous to the later novels of Golding, and thus able to look back on the earlier ones with some hindsight. The quality of Sammy’s love is central to Boyd’s analysis.

Gindin, James. William Golding. New York: Macmillan, 1988. Sees Golding relating sinfulness to “becoming” in Free Fall. An economic, well focused thematic discussion.

Kinkead-Weekes, Martin, and Ian Gregor. William Golding: A Critical Study. 2d ed. Winchester, Mass.: Faber & Faber, 1984. Anticipates later criticisms of the novel’s being too reductionist by arguing that such criticisms are misconceived.

Redpath, Philip. William Golding: A Structural Reading of His Fiction. New York: Barnes & Nobel Books, 1986. Examines the circular structure of Free Fall and other novels of Golding.