In this essay, my first for the IB English course, I examine the roles of the different physical settings in Lorca’s Blood Wedding, tinting my exploration with the possibility that the physical settings and psychological mindsets of the characters are at least linked to, if not reflections of, each other. Though the essay was due at the end of the second year, our class finished the first draft sometime during the first year; I continued to work on it all throughout 12th grade as well, and have seen it grow into a piece with many more layers and subtleties in interpretation than it contained at its inception. What I also improved was my use of caution and accuracy when pciking words; by the end I was paying more attention to whether certain operational words such as verbs were promoting, contradicting, or obscuring the overarching ideas of the essay that I wanted to put forth. The link to the Google Docs version is provided at the end of the text:
Setting in stories can take on multiple purposes, ranging from its literal, physical uses to its more metaphoric ones. In exploring the various effects of setting in Federico García Lorca’s Blood Wedding, two separate, yet ultimately converging interpretations could be conceived by the reader. One may deal with setting’s direct reaction to characters’ changing moods and emotions, and the other, with the idea that setting can in fact exert influence over the characters’ mental states. Both these approaches to viewing setting as having a ‘living,’ shadowy role in stories, could develop in a reader’s mind as natural consequences of Lorca’s either deliberate or unconscious experimentation with the atmospheres; places such as the forest, vineyards, and the region of Andalusia have multiple roles depending on the viewpoint one takes (and interestingly, the reader’s transforming perspective on setting could parallel the evolution of setting itself). At times one could almost completely disassociate these environments from their physical qualities, due to the intrinsic and intense psychology (of the characters and context) from which space has primarily been constructed. Also, as is often common in literature, the mingling of the author’s own (modernist) context and the play’s fictional setting alludes to tensions and themes of that era; the structure and unreliability of any setting (in either interpretation) are as much reflections of the characters’ anxieties as they are of the common communal concern over lifestyle changes experienced in Lorca’s reality.
The first interpretation of setting, which views it as a result of, or a reaction to, the characters, leads the reader to evaluate the origin of setting’s very existence; it’s made by or existing mainly in relation to the characters’ thoughts and feelings. In this lense, setting is a drastic physical expression of the psychology running through individual minds, and therefore is inconstant and vulnerable in nature. On the other hand, setting could have its own ‘will’ that is imposed on the characters’ actions and emotions through a story, mostly without them realizing it. Neither analysis is particularly objective, as in both cases, the audience perceives setting through its role as either the receiver or creator of the characters’ mindsets, rather than as being removed from their influences. In Blood Wedding, this subjectivity of setting seems to be a conscious decision of Lorca, but perhaps some of the underlying significance of the treatment of setting is an unintentional reflection of tensions brought on by public conflicts present in Lorca’s context.
One can see how the vineyard, appearing on the very first page of Blood Wedding (as the mother tries to keep the bridegroom from going outside,) acknowledges setting’s role as a product of a character’s internal state. The setting of the vineyard is one that’s typically associated with prosperity or fertility, but in this scene, peril could instead be attributed to it, with specific regard to the mother’s paranoia. The setting would not have the same relevance if it were removed from the context; when one realistically considers the vineyard, it is just that- an ordinary place where the bridegroom is in no actual danger. However, Lorca only introduces meaning to the setting by projecting the mother’s irrational fear onto it, externalizing and physically embodying a usually abstract concept. Through the use of this technique, he creates a world in which the mother not only feels terror inside her, but is literally and constantly surrounded by an atmosphere of anxiety. During a later scene, the significance of the vineyard changes to coincide with the father’s beliefs about it. His perception perhaps leans more toward the traditional role of a vineyard; the father ascribes prosperity and a unification of two families to his land as well as to that of the bridegroom. Combining both the father’s elated expectancy and the mother’s apprehension, the reader may finally mould the vineyard into an invention of the characters’ emotions by making it a force of imminent trouble rather than simply a benign location.
The forest is a major setting that may also be considered a result of the emotions exhibited by characters. Though mentioned in previous scenes, the forest only comes into being during the climax of the play, as Leonardo and the bride escape to it. Contrary to one’s expectation that it should be a sanctuary for the lovers, the wilderness turns out to be a restless, agitated setting; Lorca also utilizes personification of the moon (who instead of being a source of calmness is more a malevolent conspirator working against Leonardo and the bride,) in order to signal a shift away from a naturalistic setting, and toward an experimental, ‘hyper-real’ one, where suddenly the forest seems to sense and manifest the characters’ fear. Again, as in the case of the vineyard, the forest doesn’t retain an objective existence- it’s a reflection and creation of the lovers’ guilt and anxiety (possibly implying an allusion to Lorca’s context), and their various emotions are considerably intensified. Both the vineyard and the forest, in being so dependent on the characters’ psyches, revolve around the idea of a lost or displaced reality that perhaps is also related to Lorca’s own worries.
While the aforementioned places are largely impacted by the humans of the story, at a certain point one may begin to feel that the tables are turned, and places like the vineyard, forest, and Andalusia begin to shape the characters’ mindsets. The reader could see the vineyards for instance, from the mother’s and father’s perspectives, their outlines formed through their outlooks. However, once the initial connotations of the vineyard have been established by the mother, the setting detaches itself from her influence when she mentions her husband’s death and the violence that took place in the vineyard, and one could now shift perspectives so that her paranoia is in fact a result of that vicious aspect of the setting’s character. The second version of the vineyard may also impose its volition onto the characters’ actions; as a prime focus of the father, the setting’s promise of stability and wealth may have dictated the bride’s ambition to marry the bridegroom for the sake of convenience.
The reader may begin to see the forest (after it soaks up the characters’ moods,) gain enough substance to form its own ‘evil’ conscience. Instead of changing its nature when the bride and Leonardo start to display some confidence, this setting continues its pursuit for blood by having its separate parts (the moon, beggar woman, woodcutters, etc,) aid the bridegroom’s search party. At first powered by the humans’ desires, both the vineyard and forest eventually grow into somewhat more absolute forces intent on displaying their ‘personalities.’ Perhaps a more obvious reference to the concept of setting influencing a character is perceived in the conversation between the bride and her maid, in which the bride associates her mother’s degeneration with the Andalusian landscape. In the play this region is described as arid and heat-filled, two traits that can just as well be applied to the oppression felt by the bride’s mother (after arriving in Andalusia,) and likewise, by the bride; while the heat present in the atmosphere may be suffocating physically, it apparently exacerbates the stifling sensation that the bride experiences regarding her passion for Leonardo. Additionally, the unrelenting environments of Andalusia and the forest lead to a possible suggestion that nature is inherently violent, its influence somehow inevitable.
When one observes setting through the multiple, sometimes overlapping views that arise in Blood Wedding, they may be faced with the issue (one by which Lorca himself may have been intrigued) of whether humans exert too much control over nature, obscuring its true qualities, or whether humans are in reality under the subjugation of subtly manipulative nature. Though this and other possibly contradictory ideas emerge from the two discussed interpretations, a reader may end up placing them on a continuum rather than on opposite ends of a spectrum; setting the ‘creator’ is born from setting the ‘created,’ and at times to distinguish between them is to separate the forest from the lovers’ emotions. However, when setting is analyzed from afar, the characteristics and roles of each perspective are evident even in the dialogue. Here the forest, vineyards, and Andalusia don’t play the parts of ornamental adjectives, but could themselves be considered subjects, objects, and verbs quite boldly interpreting and representing human consciences.