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How can the setting in a book help develop the theme? I need some help with a formative essay I'm writing

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The term setting is used in various fields: in games, in psychology, in cinema and literature. In each of them, the word "setting" means something of its own, but the general meaning is the environment in which the action takes place: place, time and conditions.

In a general sense, the setting is the given conditions of the world within the work, the general scheme into which physical properties, laws, social structure, history and other parameters of the world fit.

It may seem that creating a setting is not difficult at all. It's the same scenery — I've daubed something colorful and you can move the plot. However, it's not that simple. The setting is not only scenery, it affects the plot and the behavior of the characters, it largely depends on how the book will be perceived.

There are three levels of setting: physical, socio-cultural and psychological.

Physical or material level

Perhaps this is the most noticeable, obvious and easiest level to create, the very "match" that every conscientious author should know. This is the world or a piece of the world in which the plot develops and the characters of the work live.

Locations are the place (or places) of action: a medieval city, a modern office, the red sands of Mars, the corridors and classrooms of the magic academy, the Amazon jungle or the prairies of the wild West.

Geography and the structure of the world. Even if the work is chamber, and the events unfold in a closed space, for example, in a Victorian estate or on a space base, these locations are still part of the big world. And the world beyond them should be felt by the reader. He should remind himself of himself with various, albeit insignificant details, some hints, flash in the conversation of the characters, be reflected in imported things and wines. A well–developed world is an important condition for the success of a work of art. Moreover, we are talking not only about a fantastic or fantasy world, but also about modern reality.

Material culture.

This area of the setting is extremely diverse: clothing and decorations of the characters, weapons and vehicles, houses and urban landscapes, nature and interior and household items. Without working through this part of the setting, it is impossible to make the book textured and atmospheric.

Socio-cultural level

No less important, but more complex, it is connected with the social structure of society, which also needs to be thought through. This level includes the following points.

Relations between social strata and groups. Even in modern prose, there are specifics in the relationship between the boss and subordinates, parents and children, classmates and colleagues. And these relationships often become not only a background, but also a source of plot-forming conflicts.

The political structure of society, the impact of social inequality and caste division. The nature of relations between people in a feudal society differs from modern times. Contacts of aristocrats among themselves and with servants, mercenaries, bourgeois — all this is part of the world, and hence the setting. The limits and restrictions established by traditions and power also cannot but affect the picture of the world. This is well known to those authors who have tried to write works stylized as the Victorian era or westerns, novels about the Second World War or the Civil War.

The cultural component of the setting is no less diverse, it includes the peculiarities of national culture and religious beliefs, traditions, fashion, interests and hobbies of people. Developing the setting of a work about the 60s of the XX century, one cannot but touch on the fascination with the "Liverpool Four" and rock music, and the atmosphere of the novel about the beginning of the XX century will become richer if the author remembers the Impressionists and art exhibitions in general, the birth of cinema and the silver age of Russian poetry.

Without all this, the world of the work will be dull and unrealistic.

Psychological level

The deepest, most complex and closely related to the first two levels. Moreover, it is precisely the inconsistency of the psychology of the characters with the environment in which they live, with the traditions in which they were brought up, that most often makes these characters unrealistic and cardboard. That is, a guy who grew up in the slums of the city can't behave the same way as well-born nobles who have been dressed by servants since childhood. Yes, he can learn to behave like this and feel equal, but it will be very difficult for him. And the author should remember this.

How long and hard will a modern woman worry if an unknown man sees her in her underwear? "And what is there to worry about, actually," you ask? And if this woman was brought up in a boarding school at the beginning of the XIX century?

The psychological level of the setting includes not only the psychology of people depending on their environment. No less significant is the psychology of society as a whole, that is, the emotional state of people. It can be a feeling of fear and uncertainty in wartime, a feeling of euphoria in the conditions of victory over the enemy, a sense of humility and submission in a society with a totalitarian regime, etc. Mass hysteria of the Middle Ages also did not arise from scratch.

The psychology of society as a whole affects people, their actions, the choices they make. Why can't modern schoolchildren understand either Katerina Ostrovsky or Anna Karenina Tolstoy? Because the actions of these women are conditioned by relationships in a completely different society with a completely different psychology.

So, I think we've already realized how important the setting is? Carefully worked out, thought out, it makes the world of the book alive, and the actions of the characters logical. However, it is important to strictly adhere to the laws of the world and society that you yourself have established or described in your work. And the characters must behave in accordance with these laws throughout the work.

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