The setting is the backdrop of a story. The setting of a story concerns both the time and place where something happens. In this summary, you'll learn how writers use settings in their writing and what effect it can have.
The setting is the environment in which a story takes place. The setting can reveal details about characters as well as contribute to the atmosphere and theme of a story. Writers use figurative and descriptive language, along with plenty of detail and imagery to set the scene for their stories and paint a vivid picture for the reader.
The place where a story happens is central to its setting. A story can be set in a particular or a made-up country, city or society. It can even be set in a specific building or room. The place where a story is set often changes throughout the narrative, especially if the characters are on a journey. Taking into account where a story happens is important when trying to understand it.
'The Kite Runner' by Khaled Hosseini is set partially in Kabul, Afghanistan and partially in the United States. This story is also set over a period of decades. The contrast of these settings is significant; both the differences between life in Afghanistan and the USA, and the difference between the Afghanistan presented at the beginning of the novel versus the end.
The time when a story takes place is also important and is a part of its setting. The time a story takes place can be as specific as a certain day or hour, or it can span decades or even longer. Stories can also be set in the past or in an imagined version of the future.
Knowing in what time period 'Of Mice and Men' by John Steinbeck takes place is crucial to understanding the themes and plot of this novella. The story takes place in California over a period of four days in the 1930s during the Great Depression.
The weather should also be considered when talking about the setting of a story. Often the weather reflects the characters' mood and adds to the atmosphere of a story. Writers also use the weather as a symbol.
In 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe' by C. S. Lewis, the weather that plagues Narnia is symbolic. The eternal winter and the cold, snowy landscape represents the White Witch's power and evil regime which overshadows the land and the creatures who live there.
Authors can also use setting to reveal information about a character. Where characters live and spend their time often reflects an aspect of their life or personality, and can therefore tell the reader something about them.
'The room was as small and square and bare as a prison cell. The pale daylight that entered came from a single tiny window in the front wall, but there were no curtains. The only objects in the entire room were two upturned wooden boxes to serve as chairs and a third box between them for a table. That was all. There were no pictures on the walls, no carpet on the floor, only rough unpolished wooden planks, and there were gaps between the planks where dust and bits of grime had gathered.'
(From 'Matilda' by Roald Dahl)
This description from the first time Matilda goes to Miss Honey's house reveals the teacher's character. From this passage, the reader can infer that she is very poor and lives a humble, even destitute life.
A story's setting can also contribute to the mood or the atmosphere of a text; it can make the reader feel something. A story set in a dark, mysterious forest will have a different atmosphere to a story set on a bright, sunny beach.
'The Entrance Hall was so big you could have fitted the whole of the Dursleys’ house in it. The stone walls were lit with flaming torches like the ones at Gringotts, the ceiling was too high to make out, and a magnificent marble staircase facing them led to the upper floors.'
(From 'Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone' by J. K. Rowling)
This passage from the first time Harry steps foot in Hogwarts invokes a feeling of wonder and magic. Ultimately the setting of Hogwarts has a mysterious atmosphere, but it also ends up feeling comfortable and like a home for both Harry and the reader.
The setting can also give you a clue about the story's theme. The setting might reflect the theme of the story, or contrast it.
'The Hunger Games' by Suzanne Collins is set in a dystopian future following the collapse of modern civilisation. The story takes place in Panem, a state made up of the Capitol and thirteen districts. The description of the poverty and poor infrastructure in District 13, where Katniss lives, directly contrasts the lavish lives lived by the rich people in the Capitol. This setting purposefully reflects the themes of inequality and the disparity of wealth which run throughout the novel.
Some genres have conventional settings. This means that stories which fall into certain genres often have certain settings. Analysing the setting of a story can help you in determining its genre.
These stories are often set in the future. They often take place on alien planets or worlds.
Stories in this genre are set during specific, culturally recognisable periods in the past.
These stories are often set in castles, graveyards, dungeons or churches. There are often decaying buildings, descriptions of wilderness and the weather is usually stormy and moody.
Note: These are general ideas. Not all stories which belong to these genres have the same setting or follow these specific conventions.
Question: Is the weather part of the setting of a story?
Answer: Yes, the weather should also be considered when talking about the setting of a story. Often the weather reflects the characters' mood and adds to the atmosphere of a story. Writers also use the weather as a symbol.
Question: What is the setting of a story?
Answer: The setting is the backdrop of a story. The setting of a story concerns both the time and place where something happens.
Question: Why is the setting of a story important?
Answer: The setting is the environment in which a story takes place. Setting can reveal details about characters, as well as contribute to the atmosphere and theme of a story. Writers use figurative and descriptive language, along with plenty of detail and imagery, to set the scene for their stories and paint a vivid picture for the reader.