The importance of setting in Patrick White's 'A Fringe of Leaves'

Essay by krisworldHigh School, 12th gradeB+, April 2005

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Patrick White's A Fringe of Leaves is a complicated and engaging novel which captivates a vast number of social and personal issues through many themes and issues. In order to bring the characters to life and enhance their characterisation throughout the novel, there are signposts illustrated at numerous locations which help the reader to better understand their position and role within the novel, Instrumental in creating these characters is setting, and White makes no secret of the fact that each of the various settings reflect a certain importance to each point in the novel and creating the characters. Most notable is the creation of Ms. Ellen Roxburgh - the central character to the novel in the various locations she visits throughout it's life.

From the outset, the reader of A Fringe of Leaves is "briefed" upon who Ellen is and what her place is in life. Importantly, the reader gains an excellent insight into Ellen's World and the fact that she is primarily a puppet and that there is in fact someone quite different playing the role who is desperate for a chance to be able to escape and live her real life.

The reader finds out much about Ellen during her flashbacks throughout the life of the novel to her home of Zennor, in Cornwall. Zennor is and was a place where Ellen felt comfortable and this is certainly reflected amply in her flashbacks. Ellen misses the days of Zennor where she was able to play herself: a lower-middle-class girl often referred to as a "Tom Boy". It is through Zennor that the reader is able to ascertain the fact that Ellen is a deeply unhappy woman, battling her sexuality after an encounter with her cousin and the fact that she and her husband Austen are drastically incompatible with...