This is an excellent short story that features the life of one woman, Eliza, who feels trapped and enclosed by life. It is important to note how the setting adds to this feeling of oppression and entrapment through its physical details. Note how the story opens and the description of the weather that we are given:
The high grey-flannel fog of winter closed off the Salinas Valley from the sky and from all the rest of the world. On every side it sat like a lid of the mountains and made of the great valley a closed pot.
Note how the Salinas Valley, the setting for this story, is "closed off" by the winter fog and effectively isolates it from all other forms of life. The valley is described as a "closed pot" with the fog acting as a "lid." From the very beginning, then, the oppressive and almost claustraphobic nature of Eliza's life is made clear, which helps us to understand the way she responds to any interest whatsoever in her life, even if it comes from the tinker. Her intense, almost uncontrollable desire to reach out and touch his foot comes as a result of being trapped in her life with no form of understanding, empathy or outlet for who she is. Setting in this story is thus vitally important in how it builds up our understanding of character.