Geography Matters

By Griffin Jarvis

Geography affects a characters strengths and weaknesses

  • Geography can affect a character by helping to form his or her strengths and weaknesses. Geography shapes a character's personality and the traits that the character posesses.

  • "Anthony Burgess has a novel about the Russian winter defeating the French emperor, Napoleon Symphony (1974), in which he brings to life, better than anyone, that geography and that weather" (Foster 88)
  • a man who is living through Russian winters will be stronger physically than a man who has lived his whole life in the fast lane of New York city.
  • However a big city gives different traits, the character living in New York city will be mentally strong compared to the Russian, and he will have a better chance at sustaining a difficult job or climbing the ranks of a buisness.

Geography can set a tone for later events

  • Geography can put a tone in the reader for later events.
  • As the reader reads about geography in the story they begin to relate the geography to their own experiences.
  • for example the story may be set in the desert which sets the tone of being alone in the reader.
  • EX) In the novel And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie, the island where the characters are invited to sets a very scary and helpless tone. The shore has pointy rocks and when people start to die there is no way off of the island.
  • Geography can be more than just the way the earth is shaped.

Geography is more than hills

  • Geography can be shown in many different forms, such as :
  • Financial Status
  • Ex) A poor man being shown in a story can make a reader sympathetic.
  • Attitude of the people around the main character - Other people may be used as geography to show that an area such as a city, is full of cranky people. This helps the reader to understand and relate the area in the story to areas in real life.
  • Ex) If you talk to someone on the streets of New York they will most likely be in a hurry and will not wish to give a dumbfounded tourist like yourself directions. Compared to somewhere like North Carolina, a person on the street will most likely stop to give you directions and help you.
  • Attitude of the geography - The geography itself can set a tone in the reader. If a part of the story is situated by jagged cliff sides it may make the reader feel scared or maybe brave.
  • Etc.

Developing characters

  • Geography can help to develop characters
  • If a character grows up in a rural area they will most likely have a lack in social skills compared to someone growing up in the city.
  • However this person will have better skills in raising animals while someone who has lived their life in the city will not.


  • Geography doesn't always have to just be about setting
  • Geography can symbolize things
  • Geography can also help move the plot along and may play a massive role in the plot of a story.
  • EX) In a narrative I wrote called The Frost, the main character is snowed in his log cabin and begins to starve and has to resort to eating his hunting dogs. If this character didn't live in the mountains he would not have been snowed in. In that scenario the plot relied on the geography of the region to push along the story.
  • "I thought long and hard about my next decision and I figured it would be enough to save my life, hopefully. I sat down with my two trusted hounds who I had raised since they were babies. I pointed my shotgun at each of their heads in succession, followed by a quick "I love you" and a bullet."

Works Cited

  • Foster, Thomas C. How to Read Literature like a Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading between the Lines. New York: Quill, 2003. Print.
  • Christie, Agatha. And Then There Were None. Toronto: Bantam, 1983. Print.


This activity will help you to better understand and comprehend reading and to think more deeply about geography and how it affects a text.


Read the passage and think about how geography shows symbols and what type of tone does it set?


Get in a group of four and write down how geography shows symbols and what tone it sets in the passage.


Discuss with classmates.