Sunday, 5 May 2013

Setting: The House of the Scorpion

            The House of the Scorpion is an astounding book written by Nancy Farmer, a     remarkable author. Farmer has done an incredible job in establishing setting by uncovering small details. The unique thought that Farmer has implemented into this novel is using the protagonists’ age to symbolize time frame as the book progresses.

            In the beginning, we learned about the cloning process that occurred in the lab, resulting in Matteo Alacran’s birth. Although, the second chapter uncovered more details about Matt’s lifestyle when he was younger. “The small, crowded living room was still blue with early morning light. The sun had not yet lifted above the hills marking the distant horizon.” (Farmer 5). As identified by the quote from the book, it was certain that Farmer was trying to indicate that Matt lived in a little cottage with Celia and was not often exposed to the world outside.

            This changed instantly as Farmer introduced a peek of the world outside of Matt’s shack-like house where he was held confined, “He’d looked out the window where fields of white poppies stretched all the way to the shadowy hills. The whiteness hurt his eyes, and so he turned from them with relief to the cool darkness inside.” (Farmer 6). Intelligently, Farmer utilized the protagonists’ actions to show details about the scenes. She exposed more description about general setting after Matt’s escape from his secluded home. He was carried several miles with a bleeding foot and when he woke up he realized about his surroundings, “They reached the edge of the poppy fields as the last streaks of sunlight slid behind the hills. The dirt path gave way to a wide lawn. It was shimmering green, growing deeper with the blue light of the evening.” (Farmer 20).

            At this point, Farmer indicated the noticeable difference in setting regarding the Big House. “They started up a flight of wide, marble steps [...]. On either side were orange trees, and all at once lamps went on among the leaves. Lights outlined the white walls of a vast house above, with pillars and statues and doorways going who knew where. In the center of an arch was the carved outline of a scorpion.” (Farmer 20).

            At first, Matt was taken care of in a polite manner, until everyone discovered the tattoo on his foot. This was another tremendous change point in setting, where the young boy was thrown into a long jail cell room filled with insects and sawdust. Farmer presented the sinful way that Matt was treated, “He hid caches of food under the sawdust, not to eat later, but to attract bugs. The window wasn’t glassed, and so all sorts of small creatures could come in through the bars.” (Farmer 44).

            After 6 months in horrendous living conditions, Matt was taken back to the estate where he lived in Celia’s new apartment. Farmer chose to write show aspects of the exterior and interior of the Big House in chapter 6. “Marble-walled entranceway and statues of fat babies with stubby wings. In the center was a dark pond covered with water lilies […]. They passed between fluted, white pillars to a porch with wide stairs leading down to a driveway.” (Farmer 61).
            Later on in the novel, the readers discover that Opium, Mexico is the general area this book is placed in. I noticed that Farmer was unique in indicating that each location Matteo Alacran was taken to throughout his life implied his character, responsibility and wisdom. For example, in the beginning when he lived with Celia in the enclosed home, he was presented as a simple and shy person, whereas when he was thrown into the ‘jail’ it exhibited everyone’s understanding of Matt being a caged animal. In the end, I believe that Farmer is the best author I know thus far that is able to express setting in such an exceptional manner. 


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