Like Cormier’s other novels, I Am the Cheese is set in small-town New England. In this case, Adam Farmer (formerly Paul Delmonte of Pennsylvania) lives in Monument, Massachusetts, and in his imaginary travels sets out for Rutterburg, Vermont, by bicycle. It becomes apparent, however, that the entire novel really occurs within the confines of an institution in Vermont. Whether this is a prison, hospital, or secret research facility is never explained. In his “travels,” Adam passes through a series of New England villages, encountering several inhabitants along the way. The reader later learns that Adam’s father has been through the Witness Relocation Program, a federal bureau established to protect witnesses who testify against organized crime. Because this plan was put into action in the early 1970s, it can be assumed that this is the time of the novel.