Honestly... who is walking down that dark, scary, alley?

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"Setting: the time and place in which the events in a work of fiction, drama, or narrative poetry occur.  Individual episodes within a work may have separate, specific settings (Hamilton 150)"

I think that setting gets the boot a lot in literature, or at least the lesser amount of attention. I know that when a teacher asks me to analyze a piece of writing, my immediate thought is 'where is the symbolism?' 'What is the theme?'  Setting doesn't begin to sink in until later, and the fact of the matter is, the setting of a story and/or poem can really make or break the piece.

For example, in Dr. Patterson's class we are talking a lot about regionalism now.  Regionalism is the tendency of authors to write about their own place of geographic region.  An good example of a Regionalist writer would be Flannery O'Connor because she typically focuses on the south in her work.  Why is this relevant to setting you might ask?  Well, as we know from reading O'Connor, she not only uses the south as a setting, but she absorbs the culture, mannerisms, and dialect of those in the south. Would her stories have the same realistic effect of southern culture if she dropped off the Misfit in Maine?  Probably not.

Setting also influences conflict in the piece, and in some cases, setting can be the conflict.  For example, if the story takes place in Alaska, the conflict of nature and darkness are in effect because naturally Alaska has bad snow storms, and it also goes through a period of darkness for several weeks (like in 30 Days of Night, minus the vampires).  Even so, setting can influence the conflict within the story.  Trifles would be a great example of this.  The house was set out in the middle of no where, isolated down in a hill almost. Their neighbors were slightly far out of reach, thus leaving Mrs. Wright basically isolated and deprived from social contact. Mix in a domineering husband, a dead canary, and a slap against the gender roles of women, and we have a murder! 

Setting really does have a HUGE part in the role of literary analysis and criticism. I mean if we're reading a story about a girl walking down the road at night, and is faced with the fact of walking down a dark scary alley, you know that that is only trouble waiting to happen (insert suspense here)! It wouldn't be the same if she was walking through a field of flowers and cute bunnies (insert sarcasm here).


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