The Impact of Rainforest Settings on Characters in Literature


The rainforest is a mysterious and captivating setting, often used in literature to enhance the theme and character development. Its lush greenery, rare wildlife, and unpredictable climate create a unique and intriguing backdrop for stories. The impact of the rainforest setting on characters in literature is profound, shaping their identities and influencing their decisions. In this article, we will explore how the rainforest setting impacts characters in literature through a careful analysis of popular literary works.

One of the most significant impacts of the rainforest setting on characters is the sense of isolation and disconnection from society. The dense vegetation and lack of modern amenities in the rainforest create a sense of detachment from the rest of the world. This isolation often triggers the characters’ introspection, forcing them to confront their fears and desires. In “Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad, the protagonist, Marlow, is on a mission to find the elusive Kurtz deep in the African rainforest. As he sails up the Congo River, Marlow is gradually cut off from civilization, leading him into a heart of darkness within himself. The rainforest setting acts as a catalyst for Marlow’s inner journey, ultimately transforming him into a different person.

Moreover, the oppressive environment of the rainforest also has a profound impact on the characters’ physical and mental well-being. The constant humidity, dense air, and lack of sunlight can create a claustrophobic atmosphere. In Barbara Kingsolver’s “The Poisonwood Bible,” the Price family’s matriarch, Orleanna, struggles to adapt to the harsh rainforest climate. She is constantly sick, both physically and mentally, and becomes increasingly isolated from her family. The rainforest setting becomes a symbol of her entrapment, reflecting her sense of helplessness and desperation.

On the other hand, the rainforest setting can also provide a sense of freedom and liberation for characters. In “The Mosquito Coast” by Paul Theroux, Allie Fox moves his family to the rainforest in search of a better, simpler life. For Allie, the rainforest is a place where he can escape the constraints of society and live according to his own rules. However, as the story progresses, the rainforest’s untamed nature begins to consume Allie, and his quest for freedom becomes his downfall. This highlights the rainforest’s dual nature, offering both freedom and destruction to characters, depending on their perspective.

Furthermore, the rainforest setting can also serve as a metaphor for larger societal issues. In “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe, the rainforest represents the “wild” and “uncivilized” nature of Africa, contrasting with the “civilized” European colonizers. The main character, Okonkwo, is torn between his traditional Igbo culture and the influence of the colonialists. The dense rainforest setting acts as a symbol of the clash between these two worlds, ultimately leading to Okonkwo’s tragic downfall. The rainforest becomes a reflection of the characters’ struggle to maintain their cultural identities in the face of colonialism.

In conclusion, the rainforest setting can have a profound impact on characters in literature, creating a powerful and thought-provoking backdrop for their journeys. It acts as a source of isolation, a physical and mental challenge, a symbol of freedom, and a metaphor for larger societal issues. Through the examples above, we can see how the rainforest setting affects characters’ identities, motivations, and conflicts. Its untamed and unpredictable nature serves as a catalyst for character development, provoking inner journeys and external challenges. As readers, we are drawn to these stories because they transport us to a world that is both beautiful and dangerous, offering a unique perspective on the human experience.