Environments play a major role in literature because they give setting and context. The environment or setting gives background in a piece of literature, and often certain aspects of the story derive directly from the environment or context. This is true with everything that humans do as well: one thing is a direct result of another, and because our environment constantly surrounds us, everything we do is a direct reflection of that. Our environment shapes us to the extent that we would be completely different people if our surroundings were different. For example, if my environment changed and I grew up in Switzerland instead of Bangkok, I would be a completely different person because I would have had completely difference experiences and been surrounded by different people. This follows through in literature as well—the environment determines the context of the plot, and is therefore essential to the story. Characters give action, while the environment and context give reason.
For example, in The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, characters are strongly influenced by Asian culture because they are surrounded by it in their environment growing up. The Asian mothers in this novel bring experiences from their past in Asia and share it with their daughters to teach them what they took from their own experience, living in a different environment from their daughters. One example of this is on page 30, where it’s explained how An-Mei’s mother began a mah-jong club when she was living in China. “My idea was to have a gathering of four women, one for each corner of my mah-jong table… Each week one of us would host a party to raise money and to raiser our spirits.”(30). She began playing mah-jong only to boost morale during the Japanese invasion of China, and it was only because this war was taking place in their environment this began, and in a sort of domino effect, another club was started years later when she moved to America. This is also an example of how...
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