Onion John is set in the late 1950s in the quiet rural town of Serenity, near the Munkachunk Mountains and Musconetty Creek. This fictional community is patterned after Belvidere, New Jersey, a county seat near Krumgold's home with a population of about twenty-six hundred. This area, which was once settled by German Moravians, is near the edge of the Poconos Mountains.

A typical small town, Serenity boasts one hardware store, a drug store where boys congregate for ice cream, an amateur newspaper, an enthusiastic Little League baseball team, and an active Rotary Club. The surrounding land, while hilly and stony, supports flourishing orchards and gardens.

Onion John lives on the outskirts of town in a dilapidated house built of piled-up stones. This house has four bathtubs but no electricity or running water. The Serenity garbage dump, located next to the baseball diamond, is Onion John's source of food and supplies.

It is significant that Onion John takes place in the 1950s, for the scientific advancements and dreams of the era greatly influence the characters of the story. Technology, with new devices such as electric stoves and automatic door-openers, has changed many of the small details of daily life. The possibility of sending a man to the moon alters the characters' understanding of the universe and their vision of the future. Some people, such as Andy's father, welcome these changes. Others, such as Onion John,...

(The entire section is 272 words.)