How to Read Literature Like a Professor

(Chapter 19) What are some of the roles geography plays in literature and what are some of the effects of geography on literature?

I don't understand at all!

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Follow the link below, and go straight to page 87.


Home is a place, geographically it's a special place where we find family, love, security. Geography may also respresent the human psyche or condition (think Heart of Darkness). Literature uses geography as setting.......... but oft times it is even more important. We have places like the wilderness, tunnels, labyrinths........ or it can be used in word play (going south means to run amok and running amok means having a direct, raw

encounter with the subconscious. Geography is used to denote high places and low places, spark the imagination, and to give the reader examples they can relate to personal experiences.

Sorry about the link above, I actually think it led to an etext of the book, I didn't think one was available.........

Below you will find different student summaries on the chapter (19)

In chapter 19, Foster talks about geography and how important it can be to a story. Geography played a significant role in As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner. In an earlier blog, I mentioned Dewey Dell, and how she so badly wanted to abort her child. Anyone who has read this book knows that the whole story is based on getting Addie to Jefferson so she can be buried. Each person in the family has their own idea of what they are going to do when they get to the city. This journey to Jefferson is a tough one; full of obstacles. The main problem with the original route the Bundren family was going to take, is the bridge is out. It was partially washed away by the river below. Because of this, the family has to come up with a fairly new plan, and this takes a few extra days. Dewey Dell is so ready to get rid of this baby, that the bridge being out causes her more anxiety than before. She can barely mourn the death of her mother for thinking about her pregnancy. She feels that the sooner she gets this kid out, the sooner she can focus on losing her mother. But first, the family needs to come up with a plan to cross this raging river. In a way, the river symbolizes a hardship (maybe the death of Addie), and the family has to get through it together; the same way they must cross the river together. On the other hand, for Dewey Dell, the river could symbolize a personal problem (such as the abortion) that she must overcome to see new hope.


In Chapter 19, Foster explains how the geography in a story adds to the story's meaning - whether we give it much thought or not. In a previous post, I used the novel "Safe Haven" by Nicholas Sparks as an example for the chapter on quests. While the quest was emotionally hard, it was also physically hard...thanks to the geography. Katie, the young woman escaping her abusive husband, moved south to North Carolina and had to take several different means of transportation just to get there. At first, I didn't see this as an important part of the story line but after reading Foster's point, I now see that the external struggles of geography were parallel to the internal struggles Katie was facing and the ones she would continue to face.

Also, upon reaching North Carolina, she didn't have any money for a car. All the money she had saved up went towards her rent in a secluded cabin. Once she found a job as a waitress, she had to walk to and from matter what the weather was like that day. As she walked the long and sometimes rainy path home, it symbolized the long and emotional battle she still had to face.


In Chapter 19, Foster discusses the importance of geography in literature. In East of Eden, John Steinbeck opens the story with an intricate description of the Salinas Valley. Steinbeck creates a nostalgic and sentimental vibe as he recollects on childhood memories here and as the story progresses the Salinas Valley becomes very vital to the storyline. The Salinas Valley is so significant because it serves as a symbol of good versus evil, which is a prominent theme in East of Eden. Without the existence of this place, this book would certainly not have the same effect. Another literary work that geography plays a vital role in is The Great Gatsby (I used this novel in discussion on Chapter 12). We all could agree that this novel would NOT have the same effect if it were placed in a backwoods swamp in Louisiana! This novel revolves entirely around a cosmopolitan, materialistic, high-class society. The setting of this novel contributes a great deal to the theme of greed in the novel, which would not be present without the kind of lifestyle the characters are accustomed to.


There are more student discussion/ summaries available at the site linked below. This is where I found the 3 above;