Explain the effect of the setting on the plot of "The One and Only Ivan."

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The effect of the setting is one of desolation.  The setting in which Ivan lives now is vastly different than what it once was.  The big top mall circus was once a hive of activity.  Ivan was a significant attraction in a setting that pulled many visitors.  At one point, the circus mall was quite crowded.  Ivan lives an isolated existence in a world that itself has become isolated.  It is here in which the setting is significant.  Ivan is considered to be "the loneliest gorilla in the world," a condition reflective of the circus mall, in general.  

It is here in which the setting's effect on the plot is significant.  The setting is one of decay and isolation.  It is similar to the world in which Ivan lives, one that he reflects on in terms of its vast difference from its original intention.  Ivan is convinced that he is the only gorilla in the world, isolated like the setting in which he lives:  "When I'm drawing a picture, I feel...quiet inside.”  The quiet that Ivan feels is akin to a setting that exudes isolation and sense of desolation.  People no longer visit as they once used to, and Ivan understands the parallel between the isolation he experiences and the withdrawal that the circus experiences.  Both he and the circus are devoid of companionship that both once had.  Even though Ivan has Stella and Bob, Ivan was taken from his original environment by poachers.  In this way, Ivan experiences the alienation that the circus mall experiences with the drop in attendance.  The initial understanding of the setting influences the plot because of this isolating condition.  The plot draws from what Ivan experiences as being similar to what the circus mall is experiencing with its lack of interest.  

The setting's effect on the plot is to mirror a condition in the world where isolation and absence overcomes all. Ivan embodies this as he fails to think of "what can be" so that he will not be disappointed.  A setting that once possessed hope, promise, opportunity, and companionship and has become a land of desolation, broken dreams, and ruptured bonds establishes the conditions from the which the plot structure emerges.  The movement towards redemption emerges from a condition devoid of hope and solidarity.  It is here in which the setting influences plot.

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