Study Guide

Alligator Bayou Setting

By Donna Jo Napoli


The South

On a big picture level, our story takes place in the post-Civil War South, a place teeming with racism and confusion as a society—and economy—structured on free labor (and by free we mean no cost, not people living lives as free folks) struggles to move forward. The year is 1899, and Jim Crow runs the show. This period is marked by fear, resentment, and anger, as those with power—a.k.a. white people—are afraid of losing it, and those without power—a.k.a. anyone not white, including Italians—is afraid of being controlled and/or murdered for not being under control. In other words, tensions run high, and the stakes of daily life hang up there with them.


On a smaller picture level, our story takes place in Tallulah, Louisiana, a town so small that everyone knows everyone else… and yet just big enough that people are comfortable making snap judgments about others based on their race or ethnicity without feeling any need to get to know them. It's just the right size for getting all up in each others' business, in other words—and people live close enough together that sometimes their goats make their way onto their neighbor's front porch.

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