As a follow-up on yesterday’s post about visual sources for characterization — from writing character to “reading” it via inference — I’m following up today with similar resources for setting. Again, looking at setting is a great way to teach visual learners to write, especially if they are describing a scene for someone else who cannot see it. In the past, I’ve spoken to the art of applying grammar skills taught in mini-lessons via visuals, but you can also use it for creative writing, showing vs. telling, figurative language, and imaginative use of sensory details.
In addition, setting is valuable in literary analysis due to its influence on mood. The abstract words to describe mood are generated by the concrete objects in the visual.
Setting can be an extension of characterization as well. Think of Captain Ahab restlessly wandering the deck of the Pequod, gazing constantly into the horizon for signs of his nemesis, Moby Dick. Or what about Huck Finn lying on his raft, staring up at the stars, free from all adult supervision and censure? Windmills are almost synonymous with Don Quixote by now. His joust with the “4-armed monsters” defines him in our imaginations. Setting complements character, and students can readily see this on a personal level if asked to share how their bedroom defines them as a person.
We can change up the character form slightly and make it work just fine, thank you, for setting:
- Dr. Zhivago (1965)
- A River Runs Through It (Only Need Watch First Few Minutes)
What’s interesting about setting is that opposite inferences can sometimes be justified. For instance, in Christina’s World, a painting of a woman with polio in a field far from a rural house, one student might find her frail figure, outreached hands, and windblown strands of hair hopeless. Another might see strength, resolve, and determination in the same observations. What’s important in cases like this is the constant linking of abstract inference word with concrete observation of the art. This is akin to giving textual evidence for claims made about literature. It’s a good habit to get into — as is the habit of being disciplined about identifying only what you can see (factual) before inferring what you cannot see (inferential).