Compare and Contrast the use of setting in at least two of the texts you have examined this semester
Twentieth Century Fiction brought about change in literary methods and the development of different narrative styles. Modernism a term that came in to use, since the second world war, challenges traditional concepts of story and plot, and brings about questioning, looking for meaning and truth. The Modernist novel delves in to the sub conscious minds of its characters, bringing about techniques such as ‘stream of consciousness’. Post Modernism celebrates the modern world rather than question it, rejecting the idea of truth and meaning.
It rejects grand narratives and explores the extreme, mixing fantasy with what is real; this is seen in the technique ‘Magic Realism’. Some Twentieth Century Fiction, in particular Modernism and Post Modernism present human beings alienated from their environment. This essay will explore the use of setting in two Twentieth Century novels, ‘The Magic Toyshop’, (1969) by Angela Carter, which is a form of post modernist writing and ‘Love on the Dole’, (1933) by Walter Greenwood, which can be classed as Modernism.
The setting of the novel can be very important in social and historical factors, depicting the mood of the environment the novel takes place and how it relates to the story being told. Walter Greenwood sets his novel ‘Love on the Dole’ in Salford, a well-known industrial town, which is highly specific to the story: “The identical houses of yesterday remain, still valuable in the estate market, not to mention a highly satisfactory profit, has been paid for over and over again by the tenants. ” (1)
Thus depicting the social issues and capitalism of the time and place the novel is set, whereas Angela Carter sets most of her novel ‘The Magic Toyshop’ in London, where a mass of concealed relationships, secrets and indirect forms of communication can be found, an opportunity allowing for the novelist to weave this into the plot. Angela Carter explores this in the communication of the character Aunt Margaret, “not a word can she speak” (37) in doing this she has explored indirect forms of communication. She also explores secrets and relationships by presenting the incestuous relationship of Aunt Margaret and Francie “They are lovers.
They have always been lovers. Do you understand? ” (94), showing to Melanie the concealed unconventional relationship of incest, allowing for this development to be weaved into the plot and setting. Therefore showing that these two novels use of setting contrast, to relate to the different narrative styles they use and the difference in plot, Walter Greenwood in ‘Love on the Dole’ uses the place Salford as an historical setting of industrialism to relate to the ‘Realism’ in novel and Angela Carter in ‘The Magic Toyshop uses the place London, to explore different avenues and to mix the mundane with the exotic.
Both of these Twentieth Century novels alienate their main characters from the environment but use different narrative styles to depict this. Angela Carter in ‘The Magic Toyshop’ alienates Melanie from her childhood garden, “The grass wore itself into ankle-turning traps for her feet” in using the imagery of the grass entrapping, it shows the alienation of the environment towards Melanie. Walter Greenwood in ‘Love on the Dole’ alienates Harry from the pawnshop, “memories of dreary mornings and the interminable evenings when his friends were free as birds whilst he was chained to the desk… 29), in showing Harry’s inner thoughts of his environment, it has allowed the reader to understand his alienation.
Both writers have alienated their characters from their environment, an environment that the characters were both used to, thus allowing for a change of setting. Walter Greenwood uses the setting of the factory to reflect the capitalist society of the time: “Three huge chimneys, challenged the lowering sky: three barriers of black smoke gushed forth from their parapets, swirling, billowing … six smaller chimneys thrust up their steel muzzles like canons trained on ur raiders.
Tongues of flames shot up, fiery sprites, kicking their flaming skirts about … ” (20), Here the use of personification gives the factory life, making it a character, reflecting industrialism. This is also portrayed in the description of the chimneys, as he imposes the rise of industrialism against nature. In contrast Angela Carter uses the setting of the ‘Toyshop’ in particular the puppet shows to impose the issue of feminism and reflect the character ‘Philip Flowers’ male dominance and brutality towards the women in the novel: The swan made a lumpish jump forward and settled on her loins … he wings came down all around her like a tent. The gilded beak dug deeply into the soft flesh. ” (107) Here the character ‘Philip Flowers’ recreates Zeus (the swan controlled by him) impregnating Leda (Melanie). Angela Carter uses the myth of ‘Leda and The Swan’, (where Zeus takes on the form of a swan, so his wife would not find about his adultery with Leda), to bring in eroticism, mixing the myth with the fantasies of Philip Flowers. Walter Greenwood also uses the factory to show the maturing of the character Harry and the development of the plot: “He stared at it unblinkingly.
He had seen it before, often enough, but not in the light of the present, as something in which he wished to be absorbed. Awe glowed in his intent eyes. ” (20) This showing Harry in ‘awe’ of the factory, an escape from the pawnshop, his “prison cell” (37), but as the plot moves on and Harry matures in his views: “… the harsh truth that he was no longer a boy. The new batch of shop boys had pushed him, willy, nilly, along the ath of Age, a road he had no inclination to follow … (74) Showing how the capitalism of the factory forces him to be a man. The factory, his apprenticeship entraps him in poverty: “Until now a year had seemed an interminable age … he saw twelve months each treading on the other’s heels in a never ending suffocating circle … like prisoners exercising mechanically in the confines of he prison yard” (75) Here Walter Greenwood uses Harry’s inner thoughts to reflect the social issues and the movement of time in the story.
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