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The setting, the American South, is the backdrop of the story. It permeates the story with shades of racism, misogyny, tradition, and community. I wouldn't say the setting was a character rather than it provided texture and context to the characters. White readers were much less critical of the novel than black readers, who felt that Hurston had not been harsh enough in her critique of the white treatment of blacks in the South. They felt that she painted too rosy a picture of black life in the South, betraying blacks by not portraying the ill treatment and demoralization that they had suffered.