Literature and Setting
August 23, 2010
Literature and Setting
A dimly lit porch, a sunny day at the beach, hot summer day in Arizona, all of these are examples of places where a story might take place. These stories are known as literature. Literature cannot be simply defined because it is an art form. This art form portrays many emotions, historical moments in time, places and much more. Literature is all around us and is something that we as a society need in order to relate to what is going on around us, emotionally inside of us and to further understand history. Authors create literature keeping in mind various forms in which they can develop and explain their characters and stories. “Shiloh,” “Araby,” “A Worn Path,” and “A Rose for Emily” are all literary works of art that portray the literary element of setting.
Many have tried to define what "literature" is or what makes something "literary;" no one has successfully defined literature in such a way that it accounts for the complexities of language and the wide variety of written texts. Some define literature as writing which is "imaginative" or fictive, as opposed to factual, true, or historical. As some argue, literature transforms and intensifies ordinary language. "Literature" and the "literary" then are highly subjective categories. We can't decide whether or not something is "literature" or "literary" simply by looking at its form or language (Laga, 1999). There are many forms that literature comes in, including fiction, poetry and drama. Fiction is an imagined story, whether in prose, poetry, or drama. Characters like Robert Browning's Duke and Duchess from his poem "My Last Duchess" are fictional, though they may be based on actual historical individuals. And, of course, characters in stories and novels are fictional, though they, too, may be based, in some way, on real people. The important thing to remember is that writers embellish and embroider and alter actual life when they use real life as the basis for their work. They fictionalize facts and deviate from real-life situations as they "make things up" (DiYanni, 2007, P G-4). Poetry can be classified as narrative or lyric. Narrative poems stress story and action; lyric poems stress emotion and song (DiYanni, 2007, p. 775). Drama, unlike other literary genres, is a staged art (DiYanni, 2007, p. 1247).
Through out literature there are many elements that take part in creating and developing each story; setting is one of these elements. Writers tend to describe the world they know: its sights and sounds, its colors, textures and accents. Stories come to life in a place rooted in the soil of a writer’s memories. The place or location of a story’s action along with the time in which it occurs is its setting (DiYanni, 2007, p 66). Through the use of setting, the author gives the reader a description of the world they are writing about. The reader can easily be transferred into the setting by the author’s description of the character’s world. The more descriptive the author is the easier it is for the reader to be transferred to this place. Functioning as more than a simple backdrop for action, it provides a historical and cultural context that enhances our understanding of the characters. Writers know that they must root stories in a reality their readers can experience imaginatively (DiYanni, 2007, p. 66). “Fiction depends for its life on place. Place is the “conductor of all the currents of emotion and makes and keeps the characters real; it animates them, so much so that “every story would be another story, and recognizable as art, if it took up its characters and plot and happened somewhere else,”” (DiYanni, 2007, p. 67).
Setting within a story such as “Shiloh” by Bobbie Ann Mason gives the reader a deeper look into the characters. “Shiloh” begins with Leroy Moffit, a recently disabled truck driver, watching his wife, Norma Jean,...
References: DiYanni, R. (2007). Literature, reading fiction, poetry, and drama (Ashford Custom 6th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.
Laga, B. (1999). What is Literature? A Refusal to Define or Limit. Mesa State College. Retrieved 2010, August 9 from http://home.mesastate.edu/~blaga/theoryindex/literaturex.html
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