Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Warley. Town in Yorkshire’s West Riding district that is the center of a prosperous woolen mill industry. Not many years after World War II, people who have been made rich by the war are beginning to find ways to spend their wealth on grand homes, expensive cars, and other luxuries that were scarce during the war. Warley’s Cyprus Avenue, named after the trees that line it, symbolizes for Joe Lampton the grandeur of Warley as a prosperous community. Joe takes up lodging with Mr. Cedric and Mrs. Joan Thompson on Eagle Road at T’Top, a place symbolic of the heights to which Joe hopes soon to climb.

Merton River loops through Warley and is clear enough for children to use safely for swimming, another symbol of the promise of a new and better life for Joe in this community. Into this peaceful world bursting with good fortune the protagonist enters as “General Joe Lampton” who plans his attack carefully for acquiring his share of postwar wealth and position that he sees Warley’s elite enjoying in this world of theater, fancy cars, and elegant homes.

Little Theatre

Little Theatre. Amateur theatrical organization that Joe joins in order to make social contacts. The theater is the meeting place and performance stage for the Warley Thespians. There, Joe meets both of the women who become his lovers, Alice Aisgill and Susan Brown, as he plans his campaign to reach the upper levels of Warley society. His participation in the play The Lady’s Not for Burning at the Little Theatre introduces him to many of the upper-middle-class members of his community.

Sparrow Hill


(The entire section is 681 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Allsop, Kenneth. The Angry Decade: A Survey of the Cultural Revolt of the Nineteen-Fifties. London: Peter Owen, 1958. Although this book was written at the end of the very decade it discusses, it remains the single best study of that period in British literary history. Its chapter on Braine uses interviews with the author.

Braine, John. Writing a Novel. New York: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, 1974. Braine’s own explanation of how he crafts fiction, the result of reflections on his teaching of creative writing, provides insights into the development of Room at the Top. Essential reading, in which Braine includes examples of how he planned and revised this novel.

Frazer, G. S. The Modern Writer and His World. Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1964. Includes a highly negative evaluation of Room at the Top and, hence, is useful as a counterweight to more laudatory views. Frazer finds in Braine’s work a cheap style, inadequate understanding of the characters of Joe Lampton and Susan Brown, and silliness in thinking that a thirty-four-year-old woman is decrepit.

Lee, James W. John Braine. New York: Twayne, 1968. A balanced survey of Braine’s background and upbringing in the north of England and a consideration of the four novels that he had published by 1968. The chapter on Room at the Top is a good analysis of the novel’s themes and literary style. The only book devoted wholly to a study of the author.

Sinfield, Alan. Literature, Politics, and Culture in Postwar Britain. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989. A survey, written from a left-wing perspective, of the relationships between political change and literary production in Britain since 1945. It includes a chapter on left-wing writing.