Setting in Literature: Types, Functions, Importance, and Examples

There are various components of a literary piece that makes it whole and complete. Each of these components plays equally crucial roles in accomplishing the goal of the piece. And that goal is to tell a compelling story that invokes an emotional response.

One of the important components of a story is its setting. There are several descriptions of the term but not many go into detail of what it really entails. This post will cover everything that needs to be known about this vital story component.

What is Setting in Literature?

Setting is basically the location and the time in which the events of a story take place. It is the geographical essence of a literary piece and also plays a pivotal role in defining the story. The setting of a story is often incorporated into the story’s backdrop and can at times be used to create a mood for the story.

It is inconceivable to create a work of fiction without developing a setting as it is a fundamental element that readers expect to see. One impressive feature that makes setting a valuable component of literature is the ease with which it blends with the other literary components including character, plot, and theme.

While it is quite possible to infuse the setting of a story into its plot without disrupting the flow of the story, it is difficult to accomplish this if one isn’t a skilled writer.

Setting in literature is crucial to the imaginative consumption of a reader; without its inclusion in a story, it is impossible for the reader to fully follow the story’s plot.

Setting in Literature

Types of Setting in Literature

There are two types of setting that are applicable in works of literature. What makes them different from each other isn’t their composition; rather, it is the way they are incorporated into a story.

Here are the two commonly used settings in literature:

Integral Setting

Backdrop Setting

Integral Setting

This setting fully adheres to the default principle of the literary device. It lets the reader know the exact geographical location as well as the time the events of a story take place. It gives all the necessary details about the story’s backdrop so as to ensure that the characters are fully immersed in the plot. This helps to give the story a clear direction.

Integral Setting is mostly used in certain genres of literature as it helps to bring the story’s world to life. It is common in historical novels and futuristic sci-fi stories.

Backdrop Setting

Like the name suggests, this setting tries its best to remain in the background, thus ensuring that the characters and the conflicts remain the most relevant component of the story. This doesn’t mean that it fails to perform its basic function of providing geographical context about the story’s plot.

The story’s narration is, however, perfectly executed that the setting is seamlessly interwoven with the rest of the story elements.

Functions of Setting in Literature

The setting of a story can carry out a variety of functions that help improve the overall quality of the literary piece. Of course, its principal function remains to add context to the plot of the story.

It can also be used to establish the story’s theme, which is important if the literary piece is to become relevant in the publishing market.

Setting can also be used to define the tone with which the plot of the story will be written. This, however, can only be accomplished by a writing expert who is capable of producing impressive fictional works.

Importance of Setting in Literature

Setting plays an important role in a story, and it is simply unimaginable to write a story without providing a backdrop of its scenery as well as the time.

First and foremost, setting helps to define the genre of a story. This is possible because it is an element that provides pertinent details that can be used to identify the story’s genre. Literary genre’s like Fantasy, Sci-fi, and Historical fiction can be easily identified by the described setting in the story.

Setting is also crucial for world-building, which is a plot device that is used to bring a story to life. This can be observed in literary genres like Fantasy and Sci-fi where visual imagination is important to read and understand the story.

Elements of Setting in Literature

There are important elements in the setting of a story that help to contribute to the movement of the plot. These elements can be physical, geographical, emotional, or environmental in nature. Here are a few elements that make up setting in literature:



Climate and Weather



Examples of Setting in Literature

An example of setting in literature includes the very apt description of the wizardry school, Hogwarts, in the Harry Potter books. Despite the rest of story being set in a relatively urban world, Hogwarts distinctly has an epic setting with forests, castles, and dungeons making up its scenery.

The setting of the young adult novel, the Hunger Games, depicts a dystopian world that has a combination of advanced technology and crumbling infrastructure.

What is Social Setting in Literature?

While the setting of a story primary involves the time and geographical location attached to the plot, social setting has to do with the type of social interactions that takes place in the story. It is also a very important component of a literary piece, albeit one that is often overlooked. Still, it can be used in tandem with the characters of a story to expand the plot and make it more compelling.


Setting is one of the core components of literature, and its absence simply makes a literary piece void of any substance and value.