A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray Essay

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray Essay

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"In a world beyond this one, that river goes on singing sweetly, enchanting us with what we want to hear, shaping what we need to see in order to keep going. In those waters all disappointments are forgotten, our mistakes forgiven” (Bray 401). In A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray, Gemma is giving one example of how setting plays an important role in this story. Gemma Doyle finds great power when she goes to Spence Academy for Young Ladies, an English boarding school in the Victorian time period. She must find her destiny and unravel the mystery of Mary Dowd and Sarah Rees-Toome, Two rebellious girls with terrible powers over the realms. Gemma finds unknown powers and hidden dangers about her deceased mother and the unlikely mysteries of Spence.
The setting, time, and customs of A Great and Terrible Beauty make a big impact on the novel.
The role of setting helps display the extreme difference of the two main places this story takes place. At Spence Academy the feeling is dark, stony, and dreary. “Photographic portraits of Spence’s various classes hang on the walls—grainy faces even harder to see in the dim light of the few gas lamps…a cramped musty-smelling room that could optimistically be described as cheerless and realistically be called drab. There’s a water stained desk, a chair and a lamp. Iron beds hug the left and right walls…mine sits under an eave that could probably crack my skull if I sit up quickly” (Bray 43). As is obvious, Gemma is indeed negative but the lackluster backdrop sets a monotonous and uninspiring tone to the cold walls of Spence. In contrast, the realms that Gemma and her group of friends, Anne, Pippa and Felicity, find in the ancient caves on the outskirts of Spence are as she described, “…A...


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...ut Felicity’s family because it was extremely improper for any woman to be unfaithful to her husband, especially an Admiral’s wife in such a high-society family. Felicity would probably never be seen as an equal to other girls and shunned. Observably, the customs of the Victorian era were much stricter than they are today.
In A Great and Terrible Beauty the setting, time, and customs make a big impact on the novel. These three things can set the mood of a novel and turn an ordinary story into a magical experience. This book has many different dimensions because weaved intricately between the lines there are themes of opposites, addiction, and rebellion.
Perhaps great settings can help us understand a world beyond this one.



Works Cited

Bray, Libba. A Great And Terrible Beauty. New York: Random House Children’s Books a division of Random House, 2003

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