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Literature Glossary

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Over 200 literary terms, Shmooped to perfection.

Setting

Definition:

Setting is where a story all goes down. Sounds simple enough, but there's a lot of ground to cover when thinking about setting. 

The setting can include

  • the geographical location, which can range from an entire country to one single room.
  • when it all goes down (i.e., the time or period in which the action takes place). We're talking an era in history, a season of the year, or even the time of day.
  • the general environment of the characters: religious, mental, moral, social, and emotional conditions.

Whew. That's a little deeper than the "This book takes place in France" that we're used to, huh? Take a look at our description of setting in A Game of Thrones for one idea of how to think critically about setting.

You might also hear people talking about macro- and micro-settings. The macro (big picture) is something like "St. Louis in the 1930s," while the micro (not-so-big picture) is "a small second-story apartment."

And when you're thinking about setting, remember—just as nothing happens in a vacuum (hence, the setting), the setting can't exist without a story behind it. Here are some questions Shmoop likes to consider when thinking about setting:

  • What is the effect on the story of using this particular location? 
  • Are there two settings that comment on each other? 
  • Is the setting an allusion to something else?
  • How do the characters respond to their environments?
  • Does the setting change at all? 
Tags: General, Novel