Understanding Texts



CaptureThe two key elements of a story’s setting are the time and place in which the author situates their characters and plot. An effective setting will feed the reader’s imagination, enabling them to visualise characters and their actions. Examining where you live, consider the culture, society, values and everything else which sets it apart or makes it like other areas. Then think about what it would have been like living 150 years earlier. There you have two different settings, set apart by time.

The setting can also be referred to as the story world because authors who know their craft want to make a three-dimensional world rather than a cardboard set with only the basics. Instead of simply having a small house, you could have one which is small and falling apart due to the Great Depression or one which has been bombed during the First World War and parts of it rebuilt so the bricks do not match.

When writing about setting in your English GCSE, you should be able to identify the historical period of time and the geographic location of the story. How you identify these is by the subtle descriptions of architecture, society, values etc. A good writer will not need to say where or when their story is set. The reader will be able to identify the setting. Note that some novels may be set in the future or in alternative realities. However, society and culture will often echo that of a real time period and geographical location.

Pathetic Fallacy

This literary device is when the setting not only allows the reader to place the characters but it also suggests their mood. For example, a novel set in a decaying city could be about a breakdown of values in society. This could also be called a mental landscape if the setting mirrors the mindset of a particular character or characters.