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on the black hill setting

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ON THE BLACK HILL LONG ESSAY (a) (i) Setting is often more than just a background. Consider the significance of setting in On the Black Hill. In literature, setting is often more than just a background. Setting can even become a character itself, used to set the tone of the text, or to highlight certain themes or messages the author is trying to convey. The settings in Bruce Chatwin's novel On the Black Hill particularly plays an important role in the story. Chatwin uses them as tools to reinforce moods and echo events, contributing to the portrayal of the various themes in the novel. In analyzing the settings used in On the Black Hill, one must take note of Chatwin's style. Because the book covers a large span of time, more specifically almost a century in less than 250 pages, Chatwin's method is essentially impressionistic. This means that for any scene or event he provides sufficient touches of detail for us to imagine as an overall picture; the reader is only given what is important and relevant to the scene or story as a whole. His method is that of a chronicle, highlighting the significant moments and passing rapidly over the intervening gaps. ...read more.


Near the end of the story, 'The Vision' has been transformed into one of the richest farms in the area, living up to the 'miracle' the name implies. The fact that "the border of Radnor and Hereford is said to run right through the middle of the staircase" is also highly significant to the book. 'The Vision' is hence the symbol of two differing cultures, the English and the Welsh, merging as one. This is further emphasized by Amos and Mary's marriage, the marriage between a Welshman and an Englishwoman. It contributes greatly to the theme of duality in the novel, of binary opposites inevitably existing side by side. The difference between the Welsh and the English is further highlighted by the 'walks' on the two sides of the border that the Joneses twins go on. The twins loved to go on walks with their grandfather, and had two particular favourites - a 'Welsh walk' up the mountain and an 'English walk' to Lurkenhope Park. The 'Welsh walk' was only practical in fine weather. Often, they would set out in sunshine, only to come home soaked to the skin. And equally often, when walking down to Lurkenhope, they would look back at the veil of grey rain to the west while, overhead, the clouds broke into blue and butterflies fluttered over the sunlit cow-parsley. ...read more.


The Rock acts as the pair to the Vision, highlighting the theme of duality in the novel. They exist in a state of enforced proximity and are examples of two 'halves' conflicting. The tension in their relationship is increased by their closeness, yet again opposites must inexorably co-exist. Similarly to the Castle, The Rock gradually deteriorates. Whereas at the beginning, The Rock is a well established farm while The Vision lies in ruins, in the end their situations are swapped. This again shows that the balance of power between such 'halves' are constantly shifting, and one side prospers or achieves a kind of ascendancy at the expense of the other. Palpably, the settings in On the Black Hill are highly significant to the novel in contributing to the atmosphere of events as well as the context of the story as a whole. With the style of an impressionist, Chatwin describes the landscape to encompass the events he brings to life. In addition to that, the contrasts between the three major settings, The Vision, The Lurkenhope Estate, and The Rock, are symbolic of the opposites inevitably co-existing and the constant shift in the balance of power in such relationships. Thus setting is indeed more than a mere background; it contributes to the meaning, and allows the reader a greater insight into the novel. ...read more.

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