Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Blackstable

Blackstable. Small town in Kent, about sixty miles southeast of London, based upon the real town of Whitstable, where Philip goes at a young age to live with his aunt and uncle, the town vicar, after his mother dies. Life in this environment is so rigid and monotonous that Philip is forced to seek release in his uncle’s large collection of books, which sets the stage for his later desire to travel extensively.

King’s School

King’s School. Public school (the British equivalent of an American private school) for boys that Philip attends in the fictional town of Tercanbury, believed to be based on a school of the same name that Maugham attended in the real town of Canterbury. The boarding school setting, typical of British schools of the time, is to Philip a place of misery, where he is first tormented about his clubfoot, a physical deformity that prevents him from participating in most athletic activities. In addition, the lack of privacy associated with a boarding school is difficult for Philip to endure, and he longs to escape.

*Heidelberg

*Heidelberg. Picturesque German city on the Rhine River in which Philip spends a year learning French and German after leaving public school. As Paris represents the art world, Heidelberg seems to Philip the seat of philosophy and intellectualism. In addition, Heidelberg represents Philip’s first chance at freedom and independence. There, much as Maugham did in real life, Philip lives in a boardinghouse with professors and students from many different countries; this setting gives him his first real opportunity to examine his religious beliefs and philosophy of life, and he ultimately concludes that he does not believe in God....

(The entire section is 721 words.)