Time setting

The time setting of “The Happiest Days of Your Life” by Penelope Lively is most likely either contemporary to the time of publishing  or set within a couple of decades preceding 1978. This is suggested, for example, by Charles’ enrolment into the Lower Third class, which corresponds to the way preparatory schools were traditionally organised in the UK in the 20th century, and by references to popular British clothing brands such as Marks and Spencer (although Mrs Manders calls it “Marks and Sparks”) and Russell and Bromley

The events take place over a few hours, beginning shortly before twelve o’clock .

Physical setting

The action is set in the UK, in Sussex, at St Edwards Preparatory School and in the Manders’ car. The story begins with references to the Manders’ car  and continues with a description of the rustic landscape of Sussex: “ The trim Sussex landscape flowed past the windows: cows, white-fenced fields, highly-priced period houses”  . The description of the landscape also reflects the British upper-middle class lifestyle and the lifestyle to which Charles’ parents seem to aspire.

The school area is, most likely, described through Charles’ eyes, at its depiction suggests mystery and a sense of confinement: “The building was red brick, early nineteenth century, spreading out long arms in which windows glittered blackly. Flowers, trapped in neat beds, were alternate red and white” . At the same time, the description corresponds with the typical large, imposing buildings in which prestigious schools are located.

The headmaster’s office has typical decorations for a traditional school in the UK, including English magazines that reflect the typical lifestyle and preoccupa...

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