*England. All events in this novel take place in Victorian England, a powerful society which presided over a vast British Empire. Armed with an aggressive confidence and a puritanical morality, Victorian England is depicted in Butler’s novel as both preposterous and dangerous and as having an especially dire effect on the young.
Battersby-on-the-Hill. Small English farming village that is based on Butler’s own childhood home at Langar Rectory near Nottingham. Dominated by a large hilltop rectory, this clergyman’s abode appears to be a cherished stronghold of Victorian family values, but it is here that Ernest is subjected to incidents in which his natural trust and affection is betrayed by his father, the rector Theobald Pontifex, and his slavishly devoted wife Christina. For Ernest, the rectory, which appears idyllic, is in reality the venue where his complacent, self-congratulatory parents subject him to relentless abuse. Battersby-on-the-Hill’s name suggests the psychological and physical battering Ernest must endure at the hands of his parents.
Roughborough Grammar School
Roughborough Grammar School. School that Ernest attends. Typical of the exclusive British public schools of its day and based on the Shrewsbury School, which Butler attended as a child, this school is presided over by Dr. Skinner, a character modeled on the headmaster who succeeded Butler’s own grandfather. Seemingly a figure of unassailable moral rectitude, Dr. Skinner is portrayed as foolish, pedantic, and self-deluding. At Roughborough,...
(The entire section is 667 words.)