How important are time and place to the events and attitudes of various characters?

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wordprof | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Speaking of literature (epic or novel or short story) in general, the actions of the plot take place in what is called the “mise-en-scene” (literally, to take in the scene), which means the locale, the city, town, countryside, sea, desert, jungle, etc., the time of year, the time of day, the political, monetary, social, class-level, weather, etc,--all the elements of three-dimensional life—are influenced by and influence the “characters”. That is, the fictive personalities, with their fictive pasts, their psychological make-up—intelligence, physical description, attitude toward others, etc. all perform acts—that is, make decisions, exercise free will, act out the consequences of previous actions, etc.—which constitute the “plot” and the “development” of tensions, etc. based on their physical circumstance.  So time and place—the “mise-en-scene—are both the background for the action and the first cause for the plot’s dilemmas in the first place.  Examples:  Balzac’s novels develop because the characters are in cosmopolitan Paris; Willa Cather’s My Antonia can only develop in the American Midwest; certain novels, or parts of novels, need to be set in the Winter or in the Spring, or at night, or at dawn.  One cannot separate time and place from the fictive journey of the characters and the reader.

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