Setting is the “when” and “where” of a story. It includes the physical
location and time the story takes place in.
Setting helps the reader infer and interpret more from the story than
might have been possible from other details alone.
Setting provides symbolic reference as well, and helps helps to
establish the mood of a story.
In The Lady with the Dog, the setting is vital to understanding the
mood and tone of the story. But don’t worry, the author, Anton
Chekhov does not disappoint. He is very liberal with details of
the setting, and can make you feel like you are experiencing the
scene yourself. With his great descriptions of weather, time, and
place you will know the mood of the story and feel the mood of
• When Anna and Gurov are together, the weather is
warm and inviting.
• When they separate to their homes, they weather is
dreary and wintery.
• When they reunite, the weather is still wintery but in
a happy, romantic way.
• Chekov uses the weather and climate often to help
paint and create the setting and mood.
The exact timing of this story is not given,
however it is easy to deduce that it must
have taken place around the turn of the
19th century. There were cars, but obviously
not air travel.
In this era in time, affairs like the one
between Anna and Gurov were highly
frowned upon, and would have made Anna
an outcast. Its also important to know that
in that period of time it was very common
for men to have affairs, but it was usually
hush-hush. And very undignified for a
married woman, such as Anna.
Chekhov specifies when time has past by
using traditional phrases like days and
weeks. He is very clear as to how much
time has lapsed during the story.
There are several locations that comprise the
setting in this story. Most vaguely, is Russia.
The other locations of the setting are Yalta,
Oreanda, Moscow, and S- (the town where
The place is also specific in several other
scenes, like the public gardens, the hotels, the
harbour, and the theater.
The places of a setting are any location that a
narrator describes, whether it be a town,
country, building or any other place.
The mood in this story is directly influenced by the settings and
seems indeed to be a large part of the settings.
Chekhov uses a combination of weather, time and place to create
a specific feeling and emotion. For example, “It was a holiday. It
was sultry indoors…it was a thirsty day and Gurov often went
into the pavilion, and pressed Anna Sergeyevna to have syrup
and water or an ice”. This paragraph sets a happy mood with talk
of warmth and leisure. It reminds people of relaxing without
Another, “At home in Moscow everything was in its winter
routine; the stoves were heated… The old limes and birches,
white with hoar-frost… and near them one doesn’t want to be
thinking of the sea and the mountains.” This sets a mood of a
new beginning and a fresh start. A new season, same routine, but
all fresh memories to be made.
“A Very Old Man with Enormous
Wings: A Tale For Children”
The Entire story takes place in Pelayo
and Elisenda’s courtyard.
We never go outside the courtyard only
gather clues about what is going on in
the village around you.
The story takes place somewhere on the coast, we
know this because of the reference of the rotten
shellfish having to be thrown back in to the sea.
Perhaps in Europe close to Spain, the story
references a Norwegian and the character’s names
are of Spanish origin.
The time is a little harder to say for sure.
It is unspecified time in the past.
It is a time where people still attend side shows for entertainment.
Modern enough to have reference to airplanes.
The Village itself is a small, a blink and you can miss it kind of town
with nothing to do.
We know this because the news of a very old man with enormous wings,
possibly an Angel, is the most interesting thing that has happened there
Until spider girl came along.
So where is the Setting?
It is hard to say where the setting takes place for sure. We seem to
be in the “once-upon-a-time” realm of fairytales.
The author seems to do this on purpose so we use our imagination.
in the story
era of the
•The story opens on a passenger train that is carrying
evacuated children out of the danger zone of German aerial
bombers during World War II.
•As Penny and Primrose ride the train, they notice that the
names on the signs of the train stations have been blacked
out. This was done in order to delude invading enemy
armies yet the girls do not realize that is the reason for the
blacked out signs.
•This adds a feeling of anxiety for the girls because they
believe that the signs have been black out specifically to
delude them and prevent them from finding their way
The circumstances of the war allow different aspects of the
story to stand out more so than if the children were merely
being taken on a holiday or if the story had been taken place
during times of peace.
The scenes that take place in the
mansion do not impact the story
as much as the forest scenes.
That being said, the manor is
important nonetheless because it
is being used as a temporary
holding house for the children
before they are placed with new
• The mansion has been
commandeered from its owner in
order to aid in the war effort. This
is another example of actions that
are deemed to be acceptable
during times of war.
• Not only does the mansion serve
as the initial destination for the
girls, it is also the location for the
reunion of the women once they
The forest bears the
legend of the Loathly
Worm which had
been slain more than
once by the
descendants of the
• Upon entering the forest, both Penny and Primrose believe that they see the Worm
lumbering through the woods, passing within an arms breadth of their hiding spot.
• The presence of the Worm was so profound that the setting is all but diminished and
“the ordinary forest smells and sounds were extinguished.” The scent of the beast
resembled the filth that could be found in a city, such as “maggoty things at the bottom
of untended dustbins” and “rotten carpets and ancient polluted bedding”; rather than
the stench of a forest monster. The body of the Worm contained man-made materials
such as “rusty nuts and bolts” and “bits of wire netting”. The Worm both smells and
resembles aspects of mankind that have influenced the girls.
• The children could be using their fear of the monster as a conduit to express their
subconscious fear of the war.
Once the girls have matured into women,
they return to the mansion on the same day
and reunite while reading a passage in a
book detailing the Loathly Worm.
Penny makes the comment, “I think
there are things that are real-more real
than we are-but mostly we don’t cross
their paths, or they don’t cross ours.
Maybe at very bad times we get into
their world, or notice what they are
doing in ours.”
Both women venture into the
forest alone and draw different
conclusions from they see and
As Primrose explores the forest, her surrounding
begin to give her flash backs to memories of her
A squirrel leaping from limb to
limb seems reminds Primrose of
her realization that the stuffed
animals she received at Christmas
had been crafted by her mother.
This left her heartbroken on the
discovery that there was no Santa
Clause; she experienced a
“vanishing of magic” that she had
adored as a child.
Despite her disappointment, Primrose can not help
but follow the squirrel to what she believes to be the
center of the forest and the focal point of the magic
within. Her vivid imagination takes over as she sits
herself upon a mound of moss that has a “thronelike
aspect”. She is convinced that even though the
magic she felt as a child proved to be false, the forest
that she found herself in was indeed magical and
the “source of terror”. She comes to the conclusion
that in places of magic, the imagined things are
more real than herself. This ties into to what Penny
said about “things that are more real than we are”.
Primrose was in the land “where such things reign”.
Penny perceives the forest in a different light than
Primrose. She travels back in order to witness
something from another reality enter her world.
She feels that “she needed to see it. Why she
needed it was because it was more real than she
was.” Penny was determined to face the Worm
and to deal with the unreality that was prevalent
in her life.
It was the aspect of the unthinkable and the
unreality of the forest that had led her to her
career dealing with dreams as a psychologist.
The setting in this story
effects both of the
main characters in
varying ways and
determines who they
become as adults and
what they believe in .
From helping to provide historical context in The Thing in the Forest to establishing
mood in The Lady with the Dog, setting was integral to the overall story.
Sometimes setting is left intentionally vague to lend the story being more relatable to
the reader, as was the case in The Very Old Man with Enormous Wings.
Setting isn’t always objective. In The Thing in the Forest time and disposition influence
Penny and Primrose to remember the details differently, and even affect their
perception of the magical quality of the forest, or lack there of.
Without the details on physical environment and the time these stories took place,
the reader would be sorely lacking on context and the story left wanting for vibrancy.