Explain the setting elements that would be analyzed in a literary work.

Expert Answers
carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

For most stories, the setting provides the basis for the story. It is an important element in the analysis of any story.

The setting can help set the mood, influence the way characters behave, affect the dialogue, foreshadow events, invoke an emotional response, reflect the society in which the characters live, and sometimes even play a part in the story.

It can also be a critical element in nonfiction as the setting provides the framework for what is being discussed.

When analyzing a story’s setting, examine three different parts of the story.  The place, the time, and the environment of the story combine to make the setting.  Some stories have a neutral setting which means that it is not important to the story; however, most fiction uses some element in the story which functions as part of the conflict or action.

The place that the story is located can impact the action and characters.   If a story takes place in the Old South, the probabilities of the story would be different than if the story setting was New York City. The expectations of the reader would change because of the locale.

The second element of the setting is time.  The historical component of the setting impacts many details and events in the story line along with controlling the characters and their actions

The events= the Civil War, the civil rights movements, the assassination of a president, a funeral

Language=British, Cockney, South, New England, gangs,

Manners [How characters treat other characters] = gangs, Old South, West, Native Americans, Medieval era

All of these potential facets will control the story line.

The last element in the setting analysis encompasses the environment.  When evaluating the setting’s surrounding, consider the geography or terrain. Geography can create obvious influences in a story like a mountain a character must climb or a swift-running river he must cross.  No matter where the story takes place the location will permeate the action of the story.

In addition, understand the role of the weather and climate.  If a story takes place in the Yukon in 50 degrees below zero, the protagonist and the climate are going to collide.  If the same story had taken place in the desert, obviously, the challenge would be different for the hero.

A dynamic setting allows the setting itself to take on a role in the story.  For example, “To Build a Fire” by Jack London has the main character challenging the force of the weather to live or die.  The mood of the story is influenced by the setting.  If the story takes place in the tropics, the story might be romantic; on the other hand, if the story takes place in Florida during hurricane season atmosphere would be entirely different.

In a literary analysis, the first aspect of the literature to examine would be the setting.  Its influence pervades every part of the story.