Lush, sensual and exotic to the fifteen year old, Darwin is the main setting throughout the novel and, although Paul is not living there at the conclusion, it is where we see him for the last time. Paul returns to be with Keller when Keller dies and it is here that he reflects upon his life, his learning, his love and his music and decides that although his world was foolish and innocent he loved it “Endlessly, effortlessly.” Thus the story begins and ends in Darwin and during both his early days and his last visit, Paul finds it a lonely place but a town that he loves.
Darwin is presented in a negative light in many ways: the “city of booze, blow, and blasphemy”; the town to which, “all the scum in the country has somehow risen”… “All the drifters, the misfits…The wife-bashers…” Paul’s father, John Crabbe, tells stories of his daily encounters at the hospital with inhabitants who have drifted to Darwin as a place of refuge. This inclines the responder to include Keller as one of those immigrants.
There is an interesting parallel here with Keller’s journals, as if in his pursuit to collect evidence of human folly and stupidity Keller has sought to immerse himself in a setting most suited to his studies.
Contrasting with this negative portrayal of the inhabitants of Darwin are the powerful images used to create the lush, sensual and exotic mood of the setting. The “green five o’clock shadow” simile concludes the description of Darwin where “everything grew larger than life” including the people metaphorically described as “Exotic, hothouse blooms.” Again this contrasts with the earlier depiction of the inhabitants whose “drunken whistles…lived far beyond their sexual means”.
Within the setting of Darwin there are the sub-settings of the Swan and Paul’s refuge – the music room at the school. The Swan provides a number of contrasts - light and dark, noise and quiet and formal and informal. Keller’s room is dark because of the shutters which also block out...