How to Analyze Settings in Literature: Explanation and Examples

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Improving Reading Comprehension: Tips and Tricks

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:01 Settings
  • 1:15 Comprehend
  • 2:42 Interpret
  • 3:57 Draw Conclusions
  • 5:06 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Pablo Serna

Pablo has taught college Spanish at the University of Missouri and Central Methodist University, and has a master's degree in Spanish literature.

In this lesson, we will learn what a setting is, why it is important and how to analyze it. The setting can be extremely important in literature and helps develop characters, the plot and the theme.


Take a moment and examine your surroundings. What time is it? What culture are you in? Describe the room. What do you see? Can you smell anything? What textures are around you? Is there a food or drink near you to taste? What sounds do you hear? What is the general mood around you? Is it quiet and calm or noisy and chaotic? You just described your setting. The setting is the time, place and mood in which an event takes place.

The setting in a story can simply create a backdrop for a story, but great stories often include a strategic setting to develop characters and plot and to reveal the theme. By analyzing the setting, we can explore how and why the setting affects plot and characters. We will analyze the setting through three basic steps:

  1. Comprehend
  2. Interpret
  3. Draw conclusions


To comprehend means gaining a basic understanding. To comprehend the setting of a story, we can ask questions like:

  • What is the setting?
  • Do we know the time period?
  • The location, season, time of day?
  • What sights, sounds, smells, tastes and textures are described?

The author can use direct and indirect descriptions for the setting. Direct descriptions are stated clearly, but indirect descriptions can be inferred. For example, a direct description could sound like, 'It was the evening of July 23, 1948,' but an indirect description wouldn't tell us the time and date. Instead, clues in the story will paint a picture of the time period and phrases like, 'He looked up to the stars,' can reveal the time of day.

The Giver by Lois Lowry is set in an unspecified time in the future in a utopian community near a river. The community is described as isolated. An example of the surroundings in this book includes a scene in which the main character, Jonas, saw a plane fly overhead, it was described as a sleek jet with a blasting sound. We have insight into what Jonas saw and heard.


To interpret the setting, we want to dig a little deeper into the details than in the comprehension stage. We can ask questions like:

  • Does the setting create an obstacle for the characters?
  • What does the setting tell us about the characters?
  • How do the characters feel about the setting?
  • Are any of the elements of the setting symbolic?
  • How does the author treat gaps in time?

In The Giver, the setting is extremely important. The setting is an obstacle for Jonas and creates conflict because he recognizes that the utopian community without pain, war and emotions is robbing the people of their freedom and life. The setting tells us so much about the characters.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account