How to Write a Paper Describing the Setting


When writing a paper about setting, first summarize the setting, then focus on the writer's use of the five elements of imagery (smell, sight, taste, touch, and sound) that are included. Include an analysis of the symbolic and/or thematic meaning of the setting, why the author may have chose the setting, and point out other literary terms used such as similes, metaphors, and/or words and phrases that help set the mood.

  • Summarize the setting to begin your paper, highlighting the most important elements that the author included. Include the time of day and/or time period if provided and the geographical place if given. If not stated directly, insinuate this information based on clues the writer provides.

  • Analyze if the writer used imagery effectively by identifying if they addressed each of the five senses. The best settings will include phrases and words that allow you to see, hear, smell, taste and touch the setting in your mind because they are vividly described with effective imagery. Feel free to directly cite these phrases and words and then explain what kind of imagery they provide.

  • Decide if the setting has any symbolic and/or thematic significance. For example, if the story is about finding beauty within yourself, does the setting mirror that lesson? Are they in a place that many people might find ugly, like a swamp, but within that swamp love blossoms? In Lord of the Flies by William Golding, the setting must be a deserted place in order to force the boys to figure out how to survive. The island symbolizes their isolation and despair both physically and emotionally.

  • Include an analysis of the author's intent for choosing the setting describes. Why did the author write about this place? Does it help teach a lesson? Is the author from the place they described which means they could make it very real and detailed? Is the setting fantastical so that the author can suspend certain elements of reality, such as making the setting underwater means people can breathe underwater?

  • Write about other literary terms that the writer utilized in the setting descriptions. Does the setting descriptions earlier in the story foreshadow events that come later? If the setting is the White House, did the writer want to allude to any certain previous presidents? What similes or metaphors did the author use to make the setting more understandable? What mood does the setting create? Analyze these and other literary terms when writing about the setting.

Tips & Warnings

  • The more literary terms discussed, the more thorough and analytical a paper about setting will be. Use a list of literary terms to help guide in writing a paper.
  • Don't just summarize the setting. Writers carefully choose their settings, which means papers about setting should be carefully written and based on analysis of the setting's significance.

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