Impact of Setting on a Literary Work

Many people wonder what helps to make a novel/short story/any other work of literature into a timeless classic. To tell the truth, there are various literary devices that go into these pieces that help them becoming induring. One of the most important devices is setting. Setting contributes to the mood of a piece, which can change the whole way you think of a story. Two stories where this is very clear is Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell and Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger.

While reading these stories, it is very clear setting helps to make them timeless literary works by affecting the mood and in return the plot and theme of the story in ways such as using the setting as a part of the plot to using the setting to project a certain mood. One place where setting’s impact on a story is evident is The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell. The setting of this story is a tropical jungle area, and the home of the eccentric hunter General Zaroff. Among the obstacles in Zaroff’s hunting grounds are the ocean, quicksand, and the rocks which trapped ships, which gave the island its name of Ship-Trap Island.

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But, the most important way the setting impacts the novel is in its mood and emotional intensity. At the beginning of the novel, when Rainsford is talking to his friend Whitney, they talk about how spooky the island Ship Trap Island is. When Whitney is describing his feelings about the island he says “ What I felt was a–a mental chill; a sort of sudden dread. “. ” This helps to set the stage for the suspenseful and eeriness that the book tries to encompass the whole story. Additionally, the fact that Ship Trap Island is Zaroff’s home terrain causes anxiety and a disadvantage to Rainsford.

The setting helps to affect the plot of the story by saving Rainsford on several occasion, in specific when Rainsford jumps off the chateau into the ocean when Zaroff is chasing him. Although Zaroff believes that Rainsford has committed suicide, Rainsford instead swims to the shoreline and proceeds to defeat Zaroff in this way. Had the setting been different, Rainsford would have never been able to win the game. Overall, the setting impacts the story in a massive way from its use in the plot to the how it affects the mood of the story.

Another story where the use of setting is clear is in The Catcher in the Rye. This story takes place in the 1950’s where it starts in an all boys boarding school and ends in New York City. The setting of this story has an extreme impact on its emotional intensity. During the 1950’s, everyone was expected to behave and the same way and differences were not usually accepted. This is a big problem for Holden, because he is not a typical person and has a good deal of quirks in his personality.

Additionally, most of the time when Holden describes the weather he says it is bitter and frigid and Holden’s bitterness and the coldness of the world around him are a big part of the tone of the story. The cold setting reflects that. As well, New York City is known for being a heartless place. Not many people are interested in Holden’s problems and having an emotional connection with him, something that Holden desires. In Pencey Prep, Holden has not been there long enough to have a connection with anyone. This has an effect on the plot by many of the frequent symbols being things you could only find in New York.

For example, Holden’s love of the Museum of Natural History and his frequent upbringing of the ducks in Central Park to the people in New York City are things that could not have been used if the setting of this story had not been in New York City. Once again, without the use of the setting the novel Catcher in the Rye would have never been the same. Overall, the use of setting is imperative in order to create a timeless literary work. As shown is Catcher in the Rye and Most Dangerous Game, setting is imperative to establish the mood and the plot of a story.

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