Study Guide

Dancing on the Edge Setting

By Han Nolan

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Alabama and Georgia, Late 1990s

In a way, Han Nolan's decision to set Dancing on the Edge in the South places gives the novel characteristics of the Southern gothic tradition of literature. In a nutshell, Southern gothic literature focuses on the typical elements of spookiness, death, and things that go bump in the night that grace the pages of regular gothic stories, but with the twist of being set in the South.

Given that Gigi contacts the dead and does all kinds of creepy rituals, not to mention the suspicious circumstances of Dane's disappearance, lots of stuff in this story adds up to being more than a little freaky. (If you're into it and want to check out some more Southern gothic madness, read Flannery O'Connor's short story "A Good Man is Hard to Find," which stars its own bizarre grandma as a primary character—you won't be sorry.)

Another thing about the book's setting that's pretty interesting is the contrast between the places where Miracle lives. When she lives with Gigi in Alabama, the family primarily keeps to themselves in an isolated patch of property in the country:

Back where we used to live we didn't have neighbors, just fields and ponds. It was more conducive to Dane's work. (3.35)

More conducive to Dane's work, sure, but also more conducive to Gigi's control since there are no pesky neighbors to drop in or kids for Miracle to play with. By contrast, Granddaddy Opal's house is located in a more suburban area: "It was small and squat and sat crowded in a neighborhood of other small, squat houses "(3.35), Miracle describes. It's no wonder that this is the place where Miracle finally finds some community, thanks to her grandfather and dance—it's less isolated, and Miracle becomes less isolated here, too.

Dancing on the Edge Setting Study Group

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