The use of setting in a story

Expression in a medium in which nothing is freely visible can be a daunting exercise for any writer to overcome. To bridge this gap there needs to be a developed sense of surrounding to set the story we are reading in a place we as readers can visit and interact with.  This device allows one to grasp the sights, sounds, smells, and ambiance that are being depicted before our minds eye. A symbolic setting can also define the circumstances set into play by the author such as the characters demeanor, condition or moral stance.  A selection from author Joyce Carol Oates’s “Shopping” is an excellent example of using vivid and tangible environments to inject yourself into the story you are reading and also to parallel the characters point of view become immersed into the story.  Also we will also unveil the framing technique used in “The Story of an Hour” to gain an understanding of how author Kate Chopin underscored a realistic trait of the human condition using powerful detail and an enclosing setting to package her character. To begin with, let us examine a particular scene in the story “Shopping” by Oates.

            The main characters, Mrs. Dietrich and her daughter Nola, are in their car en route to a fore planned shopping trip. This alone is not much of an occurrence and doesn’t explain what the tension between them is until you begin to correlate the details affixed in their surroundings. The very road in which they are driving is a metaphor designed to give the reader an idea of the relationships between the two characters. It is first described as a ”jumble” filled with small parks and industrial complexes that are tied in with “torn up earth” and also large tracts of land with “for sale” signs on them. This statement alone tells that there are many undeveloped areas of the relationship between Mrs. Dietrich and her daughter. Oates goes on to write very vivid details that define the emotional state between the mother and daughter. She tells of “there’s a metallic cast to the air and no sun anywhere in the sky but the light hurts Mrs. Dietrich’s eyes just the same.” She is alluding to the atmosphere both outside and even inside the car as it goes on its way. In the next sentence the mother asks “Does it seem if spring will ever come?” This is a wish that she wants desperately for her daughter to finally open up to her mother and give her the type of relationship she thinks is appropriate. These richly detailed setting clues offer the reader a very real sense of this account had actually happened and give the reader an idea of the back-story. The realism used in these descriptions is the key to making the metaphors seem all the more engaging and ultimately bonding the reader with the characters to fully understanding the story.

            In “the Story of an Hour” Chopin wrote a very interesting piece in that her main character (Ms. Mallard) who is suffering with a heart condition and perceived to be in place of restriction is gently told by her sister that her husband was killed in a local accident. She is immediately grief stricken and locks herself away to mourn. From here she “sinks” into her “roomy armchair” and gazes out of her window onto a world rife with great detailed descriptions of life and color. She is seemingly entranced with the prospect that outside her present circumstances reside the world of endless possibility. These details set a very specific framework that seems so realistic that you may well be able to experience them yourself. From this description you as a reader are acclimated to the characters inner thoughts. She feels that now has been given the gift of freedom, choice, and will. For she no longer lives under the smothering nature of her former loving husband. She explains her mourning period with a giddy overtone and builds up to dreaming about the abundance of her remaining days and how she is free to do as she pleases. Her overwrought joy is perceived as delirium from grief. And just at the height of her new pleasure her husband who was not killed but only accidentally implicated returns home unaware of the news and sees his wife. And in that instant when their eyes meet Ms. Mallard who has dreamed a lifetimes worth of open ended sunny days now is dumbfounded to see her husband in front her. This sight triggers her to have a heart attack and causes her to terminate nearly instantaneously. The way in which Chopin’s story uses detail driven sentence structure and masterful framing technique instantly make it enjoyable and quick reading. The setting of her implied tiresome life and mundane routine due to someone merely living sharply contrasts to the end result of all of the lost freedom and subsequent death because of that person still living is a tragic set of events that are a classic example of using framing to give a story a sense of completeness.

            It has been the aim of this essay to demonstrate some of the many ways in which an author can create a world for their characters to exist in. I have demonstrated the usage of verisimilitude to clearly describe what is happening outside the characters interactions that cause their struggle to seem more lifelike and engaging. Also the careful planning or framing of a story offers the reader an interesting and complete sense that when the story is finished it remains with the reader more strongly. The truth is that there are many possible styles and combinations to make a setting rich and life like. Many writers use a mixture that best suits the style they wish to convey or that best fits the characters and plot.

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