Depictions of Geography in Literature throughout History


Throughout history, geography has played an important role in influencing and shaping literature. From epic poems to modern novels, the physical surroundings and unique landscapes have been used by writers to add depth and richness to their stories. Depictions of geography in literature have not only served as a backdrop, but also as a character and a source of inspiration.

In ancient literature, such as Homer’s Odyssey, the protagonist’s journey through different geographical regions symbolizes his personal transformation and growth. The epic landscapes of Greece, including the blue seas and majestic mountains, are described in great detail, immersing the reader in the journey of the hero.

During the Romantic era in the 18th and 19th century, there was a renewed interest in the relationship between man and nature. Writers such as Wordsworth, Keats, and Coleridge were inspired by the wild and dramatic landscapes of Europe, and used them as a source of inspiration for their poetry. In the works of these poets, geography is seen as an external manifestation of human emotions and reflects the inner turmoil of the characters.

In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, the English countryside is depicted as a setting of tranquility and harmony, contrasting with the hustle and bustle of city life. The landscape serves as a backdrop for the story and highlights the societal conventions of the time. The rolling hills and lush greenery of the countryside also symbolize the simple and authentic love between the protagonists, Elizabeth and Darcy.

As the world became more industrialized, literature began to reflect the changing landscapes. In Charles Dickens’ novels, such as Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities, the gritty and industrialized streets of London play a pivotal role in shaping the lives and experiences of the characters. The filthy and crowded city is used to represent the social and economic issues of the time and the struggle of the lower and working classes.

In modern literature, geography continues to be an important component. In Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, the fictional town of Macondo is central to the story and its inhabitants. The lush and exotic surroundings of the town reflect the magical and surreal elements of the narrative, and serve as a metaphor for the cyclical nature of time.

Similarly, in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the geography of Middle Earth is intricately woven into the plot, serving as a crucial element in the story’s progression. The diverse landscapes, such as the peaceful Shire, the treacherous mountains of Mordor, and the vast expanses of Rohan, not only add to the world-building aspect of the novel, but also represent the different forces at play in the battle against evil.

In addition to adding depth and symbolism to literature, depictions of geography also serve as a means of educating readers about different cultures and places. In Tan Twan Eng’s The Garden of Evening Mists, the lush and mysterious landscapes of the Malaysian highlands are brought to life, giving readers a glimpse into the country’s history and traditions.

In conclusion, throughout history and across various genres, geography has played a significant role in literature. From being a mere setting to a character in its own right, the depictions of landscapes and physical surroundings have enriched and shaped the stories we read. Whether it is to reflect human emotions, societal issues, or to simply transport readers to distant lands, geography will continue to leave its mark on literature for years to come.