The Setting as It Relates to Young Goodman Brown by Nathaniel Hawthorne and Girl by Jamaica Kincaid

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The literary device of setting is often overlooked in its impact towards the plot and character development of a story. However, as can be extrapolated from the assigned readings thus far this semester, setting plays a vital role in determining the direction, feel and structure that a particular story invariably takes. The setting is a reflection of many significant pieces of a work: time, location, culture and tone, thereby immediately creating an ambiance and establishing connotative emotions within the reader. Characters are a direct and ultimate byproduct of the communities and surroundings in which they live. They can be put at ease by pleasant accommodations or, as in the cases of the two works at the base of this paper, place a…show more content…
The stranger shatters these conceptions, admitting that on several occasions Brown's family members have trekked into the woods, or as is its symbolic value suggests, caved into evil. The devilish man concedes to helping Brown's grandfather lash a Quaker cruelly and aided the protagonist's father in burning Indian villages. Therefore, Hawthorne is making that argument that these woods have history; that past generations have been equally repugnant, stirred by iniquity and immorality in the face of their apparent piety.
With all of this in consideration, the setting of Young Goodman Brown is crucial to the structure of the story. The forest is at the center of the plot. It is the facilitator of the change in Goodman Brown. As he travels further into the woods, immersing himself more and more in the setting, Brown's devotion to his religion and his beliefs in the true goodness of his fellow denizens deflates until he is a broken shell of a man. The setting elicits fear in Brown but also facilitates the character's ultimate development, burdening him with a lifetime of cognizance in regard to society's ills and the hypocrisy of the church he formally loved. Hawthorne's intentions to deliver this lasting message to the reader could not have been achieved in such a facile nature, without his effective use of setting in the piece.
Comparatively, in Kincaid's Girl, the setting is more difficult to directly

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