The time of year is autumn: September. It is night and a family is gathered around their fireplace. The setting in the house is cozy and warm. In contrast to this cozy scene, outside the house is the "bleakest spot of all New England." The house is at the base of a mountain and rocks from the top would roll passed it in the night. Although they are isolated, the house is on a path through which many pass: a commercial route.
The setting, therefore, has a contrast: the bleak and dangerous exterior and the safe and warm interior of the house. Although the guest embraces the warmth and security of the home, he dreams of going out into the world and becoming famous. The outcome of the story hinges upon this dichotomy of the safe interior and the potentially dangerous exterior.