The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Questions and Answers
by Rebecca Skloot

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks book cover
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What is the setting and its importance to the text in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks?

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Felicita Burton eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The multiple settings of Rebecca Skloot's book are important in terms of their geographical relationship to each other and to the time periods when the action takes place. The idea of racial geography is a significant component of the story.

One key element in the present-day aspects of Skloot's research and writing is her decision to do original, on-site field research. She went where Henrietta's living survivors were. In tracing the story back in history, she also wanted to see where and how Lacks had lived and died.

The poverty, both rural and urban, in which Henrietta and her family lived in Virginia and Maryland is sharply contrasted with the wealth and privilege inside the Johns Hopkins hospital. The severity of Henrietta's medical condition drove her to seek care at an elite facility. The hospital's knowledge of her financial limitations, in turn, enabled them to take advantage of her family's vulnerability, which seemed evident just from their address.

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The book is set, first, in...

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