This GCSE English Literature quiz takes a look at setting in Silas Marner by George Eliot. At its most basic level, the setting of a text means the location and the time in which the events take place. In addition to the events with which a text is primarily concerned, there will be events occurring in the background to which characters might allude. This wider fictional world is known as context and is also a key component of its setting (fictional context should not, of course, be confused with the author’s real-life context). Atmosphere is another important element of setting, and can change multiple times in a text, just as a text most probably moves between several different settings.
It is important to consider carefully the setting of any text you study. Characters are affected by the world in which they live, fictional though it is.
For example, authors show the effect of political or social events on characters through their reported thoughts, behaviour and dialogue.
At one level, Silas Marner is not rooted in a very specific time and place. Its fairy-tale elements create an impression of time being transcended. Nevertheless, Eliot also vividly presents a rural village on the verge of the Industrial Revolution, with the many changes that will bring. Why might Eliot have wished to present this moral tale as transcending time while being placed at a point in history where the life it relates is in danger of being forever destroyed? It is interesting to note that “ravel”, the root of the name Raveloe, means both “to tangle” or “to unpick/to unravel”. Does this bear upon the meaning of the text, in your view?
Geographical setting includes country or region, environment, the buildings or landscapes where events occur, and even the weather. Do events occur in a variety of places, or all in the same place? Do any characters travel, or arrive from elsewhere? How does the interaction of characters with their environment create meaning in the text?
One useful task is to compare the time a text is set with when it was written. Do these times differ? Think about the reasons why an author might choose to set a text in the past, present or future. Do such differences change our understanding of the story?
Answer the questions below on setting in George Eliot's Silas Marner.
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