Coming Attraction Setting
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Questions on the element of setting in "Coming Attraction" by Fritz Leiber:
1. Are there significant differences in settings for different characters? What does this suggest about each person
2.Does the setting motivate the action of any of the characters?
3.Does the way characters respond or adjust to setting reveal their strength or weakness?
4.Does a change in setting suggest some internal change in a character?
5.Can the setting be symbolic?
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1. With the setting of "Coming Attraction" as post-World War III, there seems a dehumanization as a result of destruction and radiation-e.g. "the small clucking crowed of masked women." Babies with webbed fingers and feet are held out to others as a warning; women have become objectified, marginalized, and are made to wear masks since the face has become the new sexual part of anatomy. Men are brutish:
Zirk is first viewed on the televisor, being severely kicked by a tall girl.
In "Heaven," the band "chased off the dancing girls with growls."
2-3. The young woman, Theda, who says she is "frightened," is grateful to Wysten Turner, the Englishman, telling him "You were wonderful this afternoon," and asks his help to escape her environment. Further, she discusses the men who fight the women and how when they lose, they must have a woman upon whom they can release their frustration, adding, "It's horrible" (although she insisted on watching the match in the cab).
Then, when little Zirk dominates her with his taunting, "She'd like to go....Wouldn't you, baby" as he twists her hair in his hands and Turner attempts to defend her, she perversely claws his face after he strikes Zirk down. And, affectionately, she fawns over Zirk:
She didn’t look at me. She was bending over little Zirk and cuddling her mask to his cheek and crooning, "There, there, don’t feel bad, you’ll be able to hurt me afterward."
The post-Hellbomb society in New York has, like the webbed digits of the child, produced aberrations. For, while Theda apparently seeks escape from her environment, she rashly protects it. Hers is a sado-masochistic relationship, perhaps in line with her "Cretan Revival" attire.
4. Since Turner's, the Englishman, behaviors more civilized than that of the New Yorkers, it does seem that internal changes have occurred in the Americans as a result of the corroding radiation. There is an insidious violence that motivates actions and thought: errant drivers attempt to "snag" women with wreckless abandonment, the taxi driver watches fights as he drives his cab, Theba wears sharp metal tips on her nails, Zirk strokes Theba's wrist, "the fingers bent a little, the tendons ridged, as if he were about to grab and twist."
5. The war-ravaged setting that feels the threat from the moon is symbolic of the savage instincts and nihilistic nature of man that act as destructive powers over humane actions and feelings.
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