Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Valley. Unnamed valley in an unspecified region of Wales that is semi-rural, without most modern social institutions. There are no formal schools, only one church, and no police stations. The inhabitants look askance on most signs of modern social life, preferring to solve their own problems and making do with what they have. The valley seems to exist in a world of its own, as the narrative provides few allusions to the outside world.

From his early childhood, the narrator, Huw Morgan, is critical of the valley’s coal mines and the harm they bring. For instance, both the miners and owners want to keep bringing up coal from the ground; a stop in production means children go hungry. However, the owners do not properly dispose of the slag that also comes up. Instead, the slag is dumped on open ground in the valley. No one except Huw seems to care about the resulting slag heaps. As Huw gets older, the slag heap becomes a monstrous eyesore, long, and black, without life or sign, stretching along the floor of the valley on both sides of the river, crushing the grass, reeds, and flowers. Eventually, the narrator anthropomorphizes the slag heap, hating it as the enemy of his family and village, as it expands and threatens to crush everything in the valley. The mine’s impact on the environment and on the human spirit are one and the same.


Mountain. Lush and majestic mountain that separates the valley from the town that provides an easy escape from...

(The entire section is 622 words.)