What Is the Meaning of the Word "setting" in Literature?

Setting establishes the context of a story through time, place and social environment. In literature, the setting plays a key role in creating the mood of a story or scene. It tells the reader where, when and under what circumstances the story is taking place.

Setting is comprised of three elements: place, time and social environment. Place tells the reader where the story is taking place. Often the location of a story greatly effects the plot and the characters involved. A story that takes place in the woods at night is likely to differ from a story set in a grocery store. Time tells the reader when the story is happening. A story that shows a relationship between two people that live hundreds of miles away from one another depends on time to clarify how the two characters might communicate. For instance, if the story took place a hundred years ago, technology like cell phones, email and cross-country flight would be nonexistent. The characters would only be able to communicate by writing letters. In this case, time greatly effects the characters' relationship. The social environment of a story is the political and cultural conditions in which the story takes place. These conditions help the reader to understand the characters, their motivations and their fears.