English Comp II
1 March 2018
Setting and Characterization
Setting involves the time period and locations in which the events of a story take place. While it could seem like a simple fact about the story, the setting has a greater significance. A theme, situation, or character can be introduced and shaped through elements of the setting. Generally, the places and times in which one lives can have a major impact on his or her experiences, actions, and perceptions of the world. In the short stories, “Araby” by James Joyce and “The Chrysanthemums” by John Steinbeck, setting is used to show the nature and personality of the protagonist. Joyce explores themes of blindness and paralysis, and Steinbeck focuses on feelings of being trapped and enclosed through the setting and main character.
James Joyce’s “Araby” is set in Dublin, Ireland in the winter of the year, 1894. Historically, during this time, Ireland was struggling with its identity due to conflict within the government. In the story, the winter days are described as dark and cold, seen when Joyce writes that winter days lead to “dusk [falling] before we had well eaten our dinners” (169). The main character, who also serves as the narrator, has a home on North Richmond Street, which he says is a “blind” and “quiet” dead end where the houses face one another (169). Additionally, the narrator’s home is introduced and it is clear that it is not lively and comforting; its air is “musty,” the rooms “littered with old useless papers,” and it is the place that the old tenant died in (169). When the narrator takes his trip to Araby, the train, which arrives late to “an improvised wooden platform,” is “deserted” and “bare” (172). Even though the bazaar was seen as an exciting, new place for the people of Dublin, it turned out to be like the street he lives on. It was not full of people, sound and light, and was compared to “a church after a service” (172). These few places mentioned in the story all have similar environments and represent blindness and paralysis, which are reflected through the narrator.
Though Joyce does not give an explicit description of the narrator, there are many details that help the reader pick out his characteristics. In the beginning, Joyce writes of the narrator with friends: “The cold air stung us and we played till our bodies glowed. Our shouts echoed in the silent street” (169). Here, the age of the narrator is shown, and it can be inferred that he is an...