The setting of mid- 19th Century America impacts the plot in a couple of distinct ways. The time period illuminates the homesteading aspect of American History. Travis and his family live on their farm. For all practical purposes, they are self- sufficient. Papa leaves to find a means of income for his family. Homesteaders were left to fend for themselves as they established land and found ways to sustain their families in the vast and unincorporated land of the time period. Papa has to leave for the cattle drive, another way in which the setting of time and place triggers the plot. The time period in which people lived off the land and had to travel to make money is one way in which the setting impacts the plot: "Still, they needed money, and they realized that whatever a man does, he's bound to take some risks." The time period of mid- America in the 19th Century is one in which the spirit of pioneering against natural conditions in order to provide for one's family impacted the plot of Gipson's novel. In some respects, this setting helps to set the plot in motion.
Another way in which the setting impacts the plot can be seen in Travis, himself. Papa leaves and tells him that he is to be "the man of the house." Travis has to tend and protect the family because of the wilderness where the story is set. It is a wilderness that represents the essence of the American frontier. Threats are present, and these natural threats posed great danger to settlers who made their home on the frontier. This aspect of the setting provided the emotional climax of the novel. Mama and Lisbeth were threatened by the wolf who “had to’ve been mad...no wolf in his right senses would have acted that way.” The wolf was part of the natural setting of the frontier that posed challenge to human beings. The fact that Old Yeller jumps out to protect the family is impacted by the plot. This causes Mama to comment about Old Yeller's presence that "It was a good thing for us, Son; but it wasn't good for Old Yeller." Old Yeller showcases his value to the family because of the setting. It is in this way where setting demonstrates another impact on the development of the plot.