What is the setting of the story "Flight" by John Steinbeck?

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Marietta Sadler eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The story begins in Monterey County, California, "on the wild coast," and, more specifically, on the farm belonging to the Torres family. The farm is described as "a few sloping acres above a cliff that dropped to the brown reefs and to the hissing white waters of the ocean." There are mountains in the background, and the small farm buildings are small and squat, "crouched low to the ground as though the wind might blow them into the sea."

After Pep, the protagonist of the story, kills a man, he journeys into the mountains and is followed by one of the mysterious "dark watchers." As Pep journeys into the mountains, along the increasingly "jagged pass," the setting becomes more hostile, marked with "big blocks of broken granite" and "desolate with dead rocks," and also darker and darker, until it is "velvet dark."

The change in the setting, from picturesque and idyllic (albeit with a hint of danger) at the beginning to increasingly desolate, dark, and dangerous as the story progresses, mirrors the plight of the protagonist and increases the suspense and tension of the story.

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John Steinbeck's short story, "Flight," takes place in one of the locales common in his stories--the West Coast of California. The time of the story is uncertain: It could range anywhere from the late 1800s to the mid-20th century, though it is probably in the 1930s (since Steinbeck first published the story in 1938). The Torres farm is an isolated one on cliffs not far from the central coast, located 15 miles south of Monterey. During his flight, Pepe heads to the east, a wild area of forests that becomes mountainous. Steinbeck based the story on his own youth growing up in California's Salinas Valley.

 

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