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The most basic element of Jackson's life that is present in her short story is the setting of the village that was modeled after her own town of North Bennington, Vermont. Jackson was quite deliberate in the exposure of the savage cruelty of the stereotypical New England village, a setting that normally invites the images of bucolic splendor and tranquil harmony. In recognizing such a stereotype in her own town, Jackson is able to accomplish a great deal of power and motivating her story as well as setting up an amazing ending. From the thematic point of view, many suggest that the short story is writte in the wake of the Holocaust, where the terror of the community reached its zenith. Her husband, literary critic Edgar Hyman suggested as much about the influences on his wife's work:
Her fierce visions of dissociations and madness, of alienation and withdrawal, of cruelty and terror, have been taken to be personal, even neurotic fantasies. Quite the reverse: They are a sensitive and faithful anatomy of our times, fitting symbols for our distressing world of the concentration camp and the bomb.
As the quote indicates from the aftermath of the Holocaust, to the reality of the atomic bomb and the dehumanization of its victims, or the spread of Communism, all of these events bring about the horror of targeting individuals by the community.
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