Dorothy M.
Dorothy M.

Why Setting Matters: 7 Key Reasons for Crafting Compelling Narrative Essays

5 min read

Published on: Aug 11, 2023

Last updated on: Aug 15, 2023

importance of setting in narrative essays

Have you ever read a book or watched a movie and felt transported to another world? That's the power of a well-crafted setting. 

In narrative essays, the setting is more than just a backdrop for the story. It can be a character in its own right, shaping the plot, characters, and themes. 

Here are some reasons why the setting is so important in narrative essays:

Establishing the Setting

The setting of a narrative essay includes not only the physical location but also the time period, social environment, and cultural background.

It can also encompass the weather, landscape, and architecture, as well as the characters' clothing, mannerisms, and behaviors. 

By describing the setting in detail, the writer can create a vivid and believable world. It draws the reader in and makes them feel as if they are a part of the story. The use of sensory details and vivid descriptive language also helps a lot.


  • J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series transports readers to the magical world of Hogwarts, complete with its own history, culture, and traditions.
  • George Orwell's 1984 paints a bleak picture of a future dystopia, where the oppressive government controls every aspect of citizens' lives.

Using Setting to Create a Sensory Experience

One of the most powerful aspects of setting is its ability to create a sensory experience for the reader. By describing the weather, landscape, and architecture in detail, the writer can transport the reader to a different time and place.

This helps to create a more immersive reading experience and can make the story feel more real and tangible.


  • Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea is set in the Gulf Stream off the coast of Cuba, where the heat, salt, and fish all contribute to the sensory experience.
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby uses the lavish parties, opulent mansions, and glittering lights of New York's Jazz Age to create a dazzling, intoxicating setting.

Using Setting as a Metaphor

The setting can also serve as a metaphor for the themes and emotions that the writer wishes to convey. By using the setting to represent larger ideas, the writer can add depth and complexity to the story.


  • Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre uses the bleak, isolated moors of Yorkshire to represent the emotional isolation of the main character.
  • William Golding's Lord of the Flies uses the deserted island as a metaphor for the breakdown of civilization and the darkness within human nature.

How Setting Can Influence the Plot and Characters

The setting can also have a significant impact on the plot and dialogues of the story. By shaping the environment, the setting can influence their behavior, decisions, and relationships. 


  • Stephen King's The Shining is set in a remote hotel in the Colorado Rockies, where the isolation and supernatural forces drive the main character to madness.
  • Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird is set in a small town in the American South during the 1930s, where racial tensions and injustices shape the plot and characters.

Using Setting to Create Mood and Atmosphere

The setting can also be used to create a specific mood or atmosphere that enhances the story's tone and themes. 

By manipulating the setting, the writer can create a sense of tension, suspense, or foreboding.


  • Edgar Allan Poe's The Masque of the Red Death is set in a fortified abbey during a deadly plague, creating a sense of claustrophobia and impending doom.
  • Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 is set in a dystopian future where books are banned, creating a sense of oppressive control and censorship.

Using Setting to Explore Cultural Identity

The setting can also be used to explore cultural identity and the ways in which different cultures interact and intersect. 

By describing the customs, beliefs, and values of different cultures, the writer can create a nuanced and complex portrayal of the human experience.


  • Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club explores the culture clash between Chinese immigrant mothers and their American-born daughters, using the setting of San Francisco's Chinatown as a backdrop.
  • Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart is set in a Nigerian village during the colonial period, exploring the clash between traditional African culture and European imperialism.

How Setting Can Change Over Time

Finally, it's worth noting that the setting can change over time, reflecting the ways in which society and culture evolve. 

By portraying the changes in the setting, the writer can create a powerful sense of historical context and continuity.


  • Toni Morrison's Beloved is set in Cincinnati, Ohio, in the years following the Civil War, exploring the legacy of slavery and the struggle for freedom and identity.
  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude is set in the fictional town of Macondo, Colombia, spanning several generations and reflecting the changing political and social climate of Latin America.

In conclusion, the setting is a crucial element of a narrative essay that can impact the story in numerous ways.

Creating a vivid setting can add depth and emotion to your story. From the physical location to the sensory experience, the setting can impact your characters and plot.

By paying attention to the setting, writers can create more immersive and memorable narrative essays that transport the reader to another world.

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Dorothy M.


Dorothy M. (Marketing)

Dorothy M. is a skilled freelance writer who has 5+ years of experience crafting content for clients in a vast array of industries. What sets Dorothy apart is her ability to provide personalized writing services that always meet her customer's needs while impressing their target audience.

Dorothy M. is a skilled freelance writer who has 5+ years of experience crafting content for clients in a vast array of industries. What sets Dorothy apart is her ability to provide personalized writing services that always meet her customer's needs while impressing their target audience.

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