How does setting affect plot in a work of literature?for example, how it creates conflict or crisis, how it forces characters to act, or how it determines how the plot is resolved.

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droxonian eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is an interesting question to which there are, really, as many different answers as there are stories in the world. We can look at any work of literature or drama, identify its setting in time and place, and then consider how many details would have to be altered if the setting were different—in other words, how the setting shapes the plot.

We might look at the recent revival of the 1980s as a setting for modern horror films as a great example. In It Follows and House of the Devil, for example, we see a nebulous time setting that appears to be mid-to-late 80s; the reason for this seems to be because nothing can ruin a horror film like the existence of mobile phones. If the characters have access to their cellphones, the tension is ruined: they can simply call for help. In other horror movies and novels, this problem is avoided by changing the geographical setting to somewhere mountainous or remote, where the cellphone signal is poor or nonexistent.

Another way to consider how setting affects time and place is to look at differing versions or adaptations of the same story. Educating Rita, for example, is based upon Shaw's Pygmalion, but is set in the contemporary age. As such, the same rules of etiquette do not apply; Rita is able to escape her abusive marriage and improve her social situation by accessing higher education, rather than changing her accent and learning to blend in to Edwardian high society. And, of course, both of these stories are based upon the Greek myth of Pygmalion, who created a statue, brought it to life and then fell in love with it. So, while it is very possible to transplant the same core story into different settings in time and place, it is not possible to do so without significantly altering details of the characters' behavior, the nature of their interaction, and the particular intricacies of the plot itself.

edcon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The time and place in which a work of fiction takes place can significantly impact the story's conflicts. "The Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin, for example, utilizes only a room and a staircase on a spring day. No other specifics of the setting are offered because Chopin wanted to use this limited setting to symbolize the confined life of its protagonist. She also wanted to suggest that the conflict experienced by the protagonist was not limited to a certain time and place; her struggle was universal and could thus happen anywhere at any time.

In others' works, the setting actually creates the conflict, as in Jack London's short story "To Build a Fire." The extreme cold of the Yukon winter and the isolated terrain conspire to bring the protagonist to his death. The setting becomes the antagonist in this story.

For a final example, Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter depends on not only the setting of a Puritan colony in the seventeenth century with its attendant laws and social mores to create conflict and contribute to characterization, but more specifically, it depends on the scaffold of the pillory as the setting in three pivotal scenes in the novel. The scaffold punctuates and structures the narrative as a place of public punishment, self-punishment, and redemption.

dswain001 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The setting is the time and place where a story takes place. It may seem trivial, but in many instances, the setting plays a very large part in how stories are played out. Can  you imagine how Romeo and Juliet would have ended if it had taken place in the present? Juliet could have just sent Romeo an email telling him of her plans to fake her death.

In literature, a story's setting not only creates conflict, but it may also determine the choices that characters ultimately make.

In stories like "Lord of the Flies", the setting almost becomes a character in itself. In this story, our characters are put into an environment that changes who they are. The boys submit to their basic survival skills and chaos ensues. Think of how differently the story would have played out if the boys' plane had crashed in a colder environment. They would have been faced with an entirel different set of conflicts.

maria-vivanco | Student

The setting to the place/environment that the story takes place. The society that the characters live in makes them conform to it's beliefs and norms.this  influences the characters behavior and their values. The environment eh glove in influence the way they talk and how they interact with people from other places. 

the way that the setting affects the plot is the complications that it has. For example, in lord of the flies, the setting which is the I slams provides complications for the characters because of the limit of supply and lack of civilization. 

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