2. Exploring the Role of Nature in Rural Settings in Contemporary Literature


The role of nature in rural settings has always been a profound and compelling theme in literature. From the works of the famous transcendentalist writers like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau to contemporary authors like Barbara Kingsolver and Annie Proulx, the portrayal of nature in rural settings has been a powerful source of inspiration and exploration. As the world becomes more urbanized and industrialized, contemporary literature has continued to place a strong emphasis on the role nature plays in shaping our lives and relationships.

Nature has always been a significant element in rural life and has been intertwined with the lives of individuals living in these settings. In literature, the portrayal of nature in rural settings has evolved from being a mere backdrop to becoming an essential aspect of the plot and character development. In contemporary literature, nature has taken on a more prominent role, actively shaping the stories and characters.

One example of this can be seen in the works of Barbara Kingsolver. In her novel “Prodigal Summer,” set in the Appalachian Mountains of the United States, nature is portrayed as a powerful force that not only shapes the landscapes but also influences the characters’ thoughts and actions. The novel follows the lives of three characters, all living in a rural setting, and how their relationships with nature impact their lives. Through her vivid descriptions of the natural world, Kingsolver creates a sense of interconnectedness between the characters and their environment. The characters’ lives are deeply intertwined with the natural world around them, and their interactions with nature drive the plot forward.

The representation of nature in rural settings has also taken on a more complex and multifaceted role in contemporary literature. Rather than portraying nature as an idyllic paradise, literature has delved into the intricate relationship between humans and the environment. Annie Proulx’s “The Shipping News,” set in a remote coastal village in Newfoundland, explores the harsh realities of life in a rural community deeply impacted by the forces of nature. Proulx portrays nature not as a benevolent force, but as a relentless and unforgiving one, shaping the characters’ lives in unexpected ways.

Moreover, contemporary literature has also been exploring the impact of human activities on the natural world in rural settings, highlighting the interconnectedness between urban and rural environments. In his novel “The Old Man and the Sea,” Ernest Hemingway portrays the struggle of an old fisherman in a tiny village off the coast of Cuba. The novel delves into the themes of environmental degradation and overfishing, highlighting the effect of human actions on the rural setting and its inhabitants.

The portrayal of nature in contemporary literature has also been shaped by the changing attitudes towards environmentalism and a growing concern for sustainability. In her novel “Prodigal Summer,” Kingsolver not only depicts the beauty of nature but also explores the impact of human actions on the environment and the delicate balance of ecosystems. Through her characters, she raises questions about our responsibility towards preserving the natural world and the consequences of neglecting it.

In conclusion, the role of nature in rural settings in contemporary literature goes beyond the idyllic depiction of a tranquil and picturesque landscape. Authors have moved beyond using nature as merely a symbol or backdrop and have delved into its intricate relationship with humans and the impact of our actions on the natural world. Contemporary literature explores the idea of nature as an active force, shaping lives and driving the plot forward. With a growing awareness of environmental issues and the changing dynamics between urban and rural environments, the role of nature in literature will continue to evolve and be a vital element in storytelling.