The setting of a story is where the story takes place. At times, the setting can become a crucial part of the story and even act as a separate character.
The novel Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson is a story about an 18 year old girl named Lia. The story takes place in New Hampshire. The fact that the story takes place in the state of New Hampshire is not a crucial part of this storyline; in reality, this story could be happening in almost any place. Lia discovers that her best friend, Cassie, is dead. She is found dead in a motel room.
The specific setting of the room in the Gateway Motel is important to this story because it is where a main character is found dead and is also the place where Lia goes multiple times to try to find peace with her friend's death. This motel room haunts Lia and becomes a place where her own fate is decided.
The majority of the book Wintergirls takes place in Lia's father's home. This home is located in a suburban area of New Hampshire.
The setting is more than just a location. In Wintergirls, the setting also helps explain the plot themes.
For example, New Hampshire experiences extremely cold temperatures and wintry precipitation. This cold, snowy weather is symbolic of the pain, depression, and guilt Lia feels because of her anorexia.
Although the harsh New Hampshire location is a setting, it is also a symbol of Lia's emotional distress.
Lia spends time in other areas, as well. Amoskeag High is where Lia is a senior. While she should be focusing on her education and grades at the school, Lia's main focus is her weight.
New Seasons, the rehabilitation center, is another important location where Lia spends her time.
The general setting of the novel is in New Hampshire, but that doesn't say much about the story. It would be better to focus on a couple specific settings that were more relevant to Lia's character and the plot. One example is the rehabilitation center Lia is sent, called the New Seasons Clinic. Lia describes the place as bleak and insincere, filled with girls like her who are fighting to keep the thinness they had worked so hard for. This sense that everyone in the clinic was just pretending to get better, as well as the glorification of control and thinness that creeps into Lia's narration about the place, suggests the complexity of anorexia as well as the difficulty of actually "getting better."
Another important setting is the Gateway Motel. This is the motel where Cassie goes on her final binge and purge and where she dies at the beginning of the book. As the site of her best friend's final moments, the place sticks in Lia's mind, and she visits it several times to try to make sense of Cassie's death. Like Cassie herself, the motel haunts Lia, like an omen of her future death. When she runs away from the suggestion of returning to an institution for her anorexia, it is not surprising that she runs to the motel. At the climax of the story, when Lia is snowed in and nearly starved to death in the motel, the setting acts as a place for resurrection and rebirth on Lia's "Hero's Journey." The climax hinges on the question of whether she will die like Cassie or find a way to survive and all that is made more powerful by her being in the motel where Cassie died.