We have changed our privacy policy. In addition, we use cookies on our website for various purposes. By continuing on our website, you consent to our use of cookies. You can learn about our practices by reading our privacy policy.
© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.

Literature Glossary

Don’t be an oxymoron. Know your literary terms.

Over 200 literary terms, Shmooped to perfection.



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