Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

by Rick Riordan

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What is the setting in The Lightning Thief?

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The setting of The Lightning Thief is a mythical world of demigods and monsters related to Greek mythology. The action of the novel takes place at a school in New York, then at Camp Half-Blood, which is a camp for demigods and demigoddesses. Later in the novel, the action moves to various places in the US, including St. Louis and Las Vegas.

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At one level, the setting of The Lightning Thief is a world of demigods, monsters, and magic related to Greek mythology. The protagonist’s full name is “Perseus Jackson, Son of the Sea God,” and I would argue that this makes it immediately apparent that we aren’t dealing with any ordinary setting.

In the physical sense, however, this novel is set in various parts of the US, and at the beginning of the novel, Percy lives in New York and attends Yancy School in upstate New York, which is a school for kids described as troubled. Percy does not fit in at this school and describes his schoolmates as “rich brats playing at being bad boys.” We learn that this hasn’t been Percy’s “setting” for long, because it’s the sixth school he has been at in six years.

After Percy learns that he will not be invited back to Yancy the following year, we learn that the school has provided him with a scenic setting, with “views of the woods” from his dormitory as well as more distant views of the Hudson River. Other settings mentioned early in the novel include Queens, where Percy’s mother and stepfather live, and Montauk, where Percy and his mother went on holidays.

The next significant setting in the story is Camp Half-Blood, a camp for demigods and demigoddesses. Any discussion of this setting should include the fact that it is reminiscent of Ancient Greece, complete with an arena and amphitheater. This camp is full of magic and potential dangers, which Percy discovers when a hellhound is summoned into the camp. It is at Camp Half-Blood that Percy learns that he is “the son of the Sea God” and that there are some monsters who have an intense desire to see him dead.

Later, Percy’s journey takes him all around the US. Percy and his companions visit Gateway Arch in “the humidity of St. Louis” before heading to Denver, which Percy soon says he has “seen enough of.” They later spend time in a five-star Vegas hotel, which Percy, who has grown up in a relatively poor family, finds mind-blowing. Soon, however, he remembers that the purpose of their trip is to head to Los Angeles and “find the entrance to the Underworld.”

The setting of Percy’s adventure can be summed up in Chiron’s words:

America is now the heart of the flame. It is the great power of the West. And so Olympus is here. And we are here.

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The action in this fine novel--isn't it fun to read!--moves from place to place, happening in many specific settings. The most important setting, though, is a contemporary world that is also mythic.

That is to say, the stories are set now, and all kinds of contemporary activity is referred to, but, at the same time, the gods, goddesses, and assorted creatures of classical Greek mythology are alive and driving events in the world. That means that the setting is a numinous version of our world (a spirit-filled or infused version). It also means that the setting is, if not a non-scientific version of our world, an other-than-scientific version of our world that is other-than-empirical. Two or more realities overlap at any time, both real for the people experiencing them.

Of course, if you want concrete settings, much of the first book is set in New York, places like Queens and Montauk Beach. And the most vivid setting of the first book is Camp Half-Blood, where young demi-gods live and are trained to be heroes.

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Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, has many major and minor settings. Although the book involves authentic Greek gods, it takes place in modern day America.

As the book opens, Percy is attending a school for troubled boys in upstate New York. However, he actually lives with his mother and stepfather in New York City. Since New York City is now the present day site of the seat of power of the Greek Olympians, this setting plays a major role in the book.

Percy is sent to summer camp at Camp Half-Blood, also in New York but does not spend too long there before he is out on an adventure after finding that he is a demi-god, related to the ancient Olympians. 

From the camp, Percy sets out with friends on a  journey across America to Los Angeles, the site of the gates to the underworld, where he goes with other demi-gods to find Zeus' missing lightning bolt. After locating and capturing it, the setting of the story returns to New York. 

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The Lightning Thief had 2 major settings and a few more minor ones throughout the text. It the opening and end of the book the story is based in New York City, where the story follows Percy through his school, museum, and surrounding neighborhood. Later, after he discovers his demigod nature, he is taken to Half-Blood camp to live with the other half-bloods. After that he embarks on his journey to find the lightning bolt spanning across much of North America, into Hell, then back to New York City for the final fight with the true Lightning Thief. 

If you need more specific details I suggest checking the chapters where these events took place and referencing them as well with your answer.

Hope that helps! 

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What are the locations in the setting that are significant to the The Lightning Thief?  

The book starts out in Upstate New York where Percy is going to school at Yancy Academy.  This is where he is attacked my Mrs. Dodds and eventually gets expelled and returns to his home in New York City. 

When his mother realizes the danger he is in, she rushes him to the north shore of Long Island (pg 61) where Half-Blood Camp is located. This is where she supposedly dies, the Minotaur attacks, and where Percy finds out who his father is.

He returns to Manhatten to catch a bus and start his quest.

After they are attacked on the bus by the Furies, they look for food and find some at Aunty Em's Garden Gnome Emporium on the New Jersey riverbank. (pg 168) This is where they meet and kill Medusa and obtain her head.

They ride an Amtrak train to St. Louis, Missouri, (pg 201)where Annabeth wants to look at the architecture of the St. Louis Arch. Here they get attacked by the Chimera and Ecidna, and Percy jumps into the Mississippi River from the Arch.

From there, they travel to Denver (pg 219)where they meet Ares in a cafe, and he sends them on a quest to return his shield that he left in a water park.

They take an animal truck from Denver to Las Vegas, Nevada. (pg 257) This is where they are detained for five days at the Lotus Casino.  This seriously cuts into the time of their quest and limits it to one day.

They then take a cab to Santa Monica, California,(pg 266) outside of Los Angeles where Percy meets Nersid, spirit of the seas, and receives the three pearls.

West Hollywood, California, a suburb of Los Angeles,(pg 274) is the location of Procrustus, the water bed salesman.  Here they find out the location of DOA Records. 

Valencia Blvd, Los Angeles, California, (pg 283)is the location of DOA Records.  This is the entrance into the underworld, Hades Realm. Here they meet Charon, the riverboat ferryman, Cerberus, the three headed dog, and Hades, himself.  Percy realizes he has Zeus's thunderbolt.

They return to Santa Monica Pier, California,(pg 319) and confront Ares for his role in the war making effort.

Flying back to Manhatten, (pg 336) Percy enters the Empire State Building.(pg. 336)  The elevator takes him to the 600th floor, which is the entrance to Olympus, Zeus's realm.  Percy returns Zeus's bolt.

Percy then returns to Half-Blood camp on the New Jersey shoreline  where he finds out that Luke is the person who betrayed him. 

Finally, he returns to New York City to live with his mother until the following summer.

Enotes is currently experienceing problems with the site.  I cannot give you the exact reference notes, but Enotes has a site for The Lightning Thief and you will find a synopsis there that will help you.

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