Hello! Today I will be discussing the literary aspect of setting in the House of the Scorpion. First of all, what could the author have been influenced by when choosing the setting? I found that (after reading the “About the Author” synopsis at the back of the book) Nancy Farmer grew up in Arizona/Mexico. This gave me a deeper understanding and appreciation for the setting of the novel, as it was important to the author. I also gained a deeper understanding for the general tone of the book/setting through other aspects of the book (i.e. the character guide and family tree) that gave hints of Spanish culture/heritage.
Throughout the first chapters of the book, there were few hints given to the “when” aspect of the setting which is what I’m most curious about. The author talks about Mexico (as well as other countries such as the United States, England and Scotland- even specific states like California), Mexican culture and traditions (i.e. cinco de mayo), everyday items that we use ("It might even have a hazy desire for music or crossword puzzles." - Page 3), and religious references ("At the head of the bed was a picture of Our Lord Jesus with his heart pierced by five swords." - page 8, "Saint Francis brought a dog to church," - page 154). However, Farmer also talks about futuristic weapons and cloning. From these details you can infer that it takes place in a dystopian-esque society in the near future- I personally believe about 200 - 250 years in our future. I think that Nancy Farmer created a tone of intentional mystery focused toward the time of the story throughout the novel, but I am puzzled to why she would do this.
I thought that Farmer beautifully described the scene-specific settings of the book- from the house on the poppy-fields, to the Oasis, to the Plankton factory, to the Big House. I could vividly picture and visualize them in my mind and it helped me become more invested in the story. I especially loved the unspoken metaphor of Matt wanting to escape from the white poppy fields and find a field of green grass- meaning he wanted to escape the evil of Opium and find happiness and good somewhere else. One of my favourite descriptions of a setting from the book is "The maids opened a door to reveal the most beautiful room Matt had ever seen. It had carved wooden beams on the ceiling and wallpaper decorated with hundreds of birds. To Matt's reeling eyes, they seemed to be moving. He saw a couch upholstered with flowers that shaded from lavender to rose like the feathers on a dove's wings." - describing the room Matt was brought into when he is first brought to the Big House (Page 21, last paragraph).
When El Patron is talking to Matt, he explains how they are in what was once known as Mexico, which raises the question when did the transition from Mexico to Azlan occur? Why? Was El Patron behind it? When was Opium established? We know the general setting takes place in the country of Opium (in which El Patron grows and manufactures his drugs to sustain his drug empire), which El Patron created. I’m very curious to see how Farmer elaborate on the setting- it’s history and the time the book is set at- in her next novel.