Does the setting function as a character in Neighborhood Rosicky?

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“Neighbor Rosicky” takes place in the farmland of Nebraska. The Rosicky family, the parents of which are Czech immigrants, has difficulties making a living on rough territory. Like all farmers, their livelihood is dependent on natural forces. This short story takes place in winter, when Anton Rosicky is informed that his heart is failing. This winter turns out to be a bad one for farmers, and the following spring is not much better. On top of the crop failure, Rosicky is challenged to not do the things he loves (drink his wife’s coffee, help out on his farm, etc.) for the sake of his heart. However, Rosicky is a notable character because he does not grow pessimistic; having lived in two big cities (London and New York), he realizes how lucky he is to live on open land instead of in the stuffiness of a tenement building. Anton and his wife Mary accept that neither they nor their children will ever be wealthy, and yet they have a deep pride which is rooted in their home.

The setting is an uncaring antagonist to the farmers in this story. However, because the story is focused on Anton Rosicky, it is not portrayed as malevolent. Rosicky cherishes the beauty of the Nebraska farmland and its openness, which allows him to live in close quarters with loved ones rather than strangers: “In the country, if you had a mean neighbour, you could keep off his land and make him keep off yours. But in the city, all the foulness and misery and brutality of your neighbours was part of your life.” This quote shows that Rosicky values, more than anything, a place for himself, or a place to root himself and to watch his family grow. In contrast, he regards cities as “unnatural.”

To Rosicky, and therefore to the reader of this story, the setting is a friend, not a foe. Rosicky is an unfailing optimist, even to his dying day. He sees the beauty in the rough weather and even in the country graveyard, a place which most people would regard with discomfort or fear. The setting functions as a character because it is a friend to Rosicky; what he achieved on his farm, though he was never had monetary success, was his life goal of freedom. Thus, the setting is the force by which Rosicky shows his ability to appreciate what he has and to see the tiny possibilities of pulling through in the face of adversity.

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