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Literature in English: Jean Tay's Boom
Unit on SETTING and ATMOSPHERE
Location Studies (Zion Mansions and 'Dream Homes') Atmosphere and Staging

In our study of Boom, the main literary aspects we aim to gain a better understanding of are:
• Theme: Contestations of space, conflict in family relationships, conflict in expectations and
reality, death and dehumanisation, memories and identity, progress and stasis…
• Context: Historical and Cultural Context, Genre (dramatic text and on-stage), Literary
Context (Genre and dramatic performances)
• Characterisation: Study of the main characters and their relationships
• Setting and Atmosphere: Social and cultural context, diction and imagery
• Language Use: Diction, Sound, Dialogue, Imagery, Symbols
• Point of View: Author and Context, Writing and Purpose
You may realise that we have already discussed some of these, either briefly or in greater detail,
during previous lessons on Boom. As we look in closer detail at SETTING in this unit and move
through later units, we will progressively revisit these aspects of the text to build a better
understanding and appreciation of Boom as a literary work.
Definition of SETTING/ ATMOSPHERE
• The SETTING of an episode or scene within a work is the particular physical, historical or cultural location in
which it takes place.
• A study of SETTING looks at the means by which a writer creates a particular mood or atmosphere in a
scene/text, the influence and effect of the setting/atmosphere of a text, and the significance of differences or
changes.
• The ATMOSPHERE (Also called mood) is the emotional feelings inspired by a work, as it is created by diction,
dialogue, setting, and description. Often the opening scene in a play or novel establishes an atmosphere
appropriate to the theme of the entire work.
Location Studies: Tan Pin Pin’s Moving House – Mandai Columbarium

Singapore, The Cemetery and Mandai Columbarium


SETTING DESCRIPTION IMPLICATION THE DEEPER THE DEEPER
Place, Space, Time, What is being said about
Objects in a it?
AND EFFECT on MEANING MEANING
Physical, Historical or (Pay close attention to ATMOSPHERE WITHIN THE OUTSIDE THE
Cultural location details in the text: diction What do the descriptions
(word choice, mean? What do the
TEXT TEXT
expressions, imagery, How does this compare Why does the text say
descriptions suggest in a
similes, metaphors...). Do literal or non-literal way? with other parts of the this? Why does the
they contribute to a text? Why does the author write about this?
What, tone ideas and
single idea?) character say this? (Think about Motivation,
feelings do they
(Think about motivation, intention and purpose)
communicate?
intention and purpose)
Singapore “smart, modern flats” Tone of optimism and The tone and use of The short film comments
“decent, modern living progress. documentary material on the occupation of
for all” Hunger and conveys a sense of space in 3 different
“vertical homes in the relentlessness in pursuit. factual objectivity and locales – apartment
sky” credibility. buildings, cemeteries
“no limits to Singapore’s and columbariums. The
demand for space” associations and
connections develops a
theme of belonging and
displacement.

Parents’ Grave “Taoists believe that Tone of objectivity and The tone conveys a
tombs are the homes of factual documentation sense of factual
the spirits of the (narrator). objectivity and
ancestors” Tone of reverence and credibility. Personal
“the physical link spiritual belief (Mr. interviews with Mr. Chew
between the world of the Chew). highlight his beliefs.
living and the dead”
“auspicious location”
Mandai Columbarium Block, unit number Parallel comparison to The tone and the
New home, moving in public housing. framing of niches at the
“modern columbarium suggest
accommodation” Sense of loss is distance and anonymity.
expressed.
atmosphere and
traditions lost (Mr. Chew)
Location Studies (Zion Mansion and 'Dream Homes'), Staging and Point of View

“I'm telling you it's all about location location location” (65)

MOTHER'S HOUSE – Zion Mansion


SETTING DESCRIPTION IMPLICATION THE DEEPER THE DEEPER
Place, Space, Time, What is being said about
Objects in a it?
AND EFFECT on MEANING MEANING
Physical, Historical or (Pay close attention to ATMOSPHERE WITHIN THE OUTSIDE THE
Cultural location details in the text: diction What do the descriptions
(word choice, mean? What do the
TEXT TEXT
expressions, imagery, How does this compare Why does the text say
descriptions suggest in a
with other parts of the this? Why does the
similes, metaphors...). Do literal or non-literal way?
they contribute to a text? Why does the author write about this?
What, tone ideas and
single idea?) character say this? (Think about Motivation,
feelings do they
(Think about motivation, intention and purpose)
communicate?
intention and purpose)
Act 1, Scene 2 – Moving “cluttered ground floor Space is crowded Boon’s comments reflect The text shows conflict
out flat” (“cluttered”, “shelf full”) his desire for newness in desires between Boon
“shelf full of tacky and in a mess. and resentment and and Mother. The conflict
souvenir figurines” Items are considered by repression of unhappy develops the themes the
(imagery) Boon to be undesirable past. novel discusses about
“anything from this (“hideous”) and space, relationships,
century or not?”, “from redundant (“rubbish”, Mother’s comments memory and identity,
donkey years ago” “from donkey years reflect her persistence progress and stasis.
“old”, “hideous” ago”). and doggedness in
“rubbish”, “dump” (word Mother refers to age and preserving the past and
choice) loss (“senile”) in herself memories.
“Maybe I senile already. and the house.
Like this house” Tone of resentment
(personification) (Boon) and nostalgia
(Mother).
Act 1, Scene 5 – Boon's “residue” Persistence and despair Persistence and despair The text shows conflict
dream “Superman stickers (“refuse to”, “cling suggest fear and within the character,
refuse to come off, but desperately”) repression in Boon. Boon. Boon is filled with
still cling desperately to Worn out (“scuff marks”) resentment and fear of
the wall, white and Foreignness (“train The sense of alien memory.
scrabby” (personification) tracks”, “alien tentacles”) invasion and suggest The conflict develops the
“scuff marks… look like Repression (“buried in that the repressed past themes the novel
train tracks” (similes) these walls”) infects and attacks discusses about
“black grime strangles… Boon. relationships, memory
alien tentacles” and identity.
(personification)
“buried like kryptonite in
these walls”
Act 1, Scene 8 – Memory of “They’re so… White. I’ve Whiteness suggests an Mother’s desire for The text contrasts young
the new house never seen walls so white untainted state of newness in the past Mother’s expectations
before… I’ve never cleanliness, purity, contrasts with her desire and desires with that of
smelled walls so white dreams and expectations.to cling to old memories old Mother, and draws
before. No one else has The contrast to now. Her past desires for associations between
lived here before. My “borrowed” in Mother’s newness reflect young both. The comparison
whole life, I’ve lived “But now” suggests optimism and develops the themes the
inside borrowed walls… ownership, belonging and anticipation of the novel discusses about
borrowed bathrooms… security. future. relationships, memory
borrowed floors. But and identity.
now.”
(repetition)
Act 2, Scene 7 – Chat with “rotten… old… leaking…” Personification of house Neighbour’s reference to The text shows conflict
male neighbour Stains, algae. as a diseased, unhealthy old age and terminal in desires between Boon
(personification) and afflicted body. disease, and the and Mother. The conflict
“If it were a person, it’d Reference to being eaten redundant presence of develops the themes the
be suffering from cancer. up from inside suggests a old people, suggests novel discusses about
Outside still look okay, torturing and invisible resentment and contestations of space,
but inside, all eaten up by sickness kept secret. associations of the progress and stasis.
disease. Terminal house with Mother, who
cancer… definitely Reference to what the is in the way of his
incurable. If it were a home symbolises> more desire to move.
person, I’d send it to a than just the physical
hospice or an old folks’ structure. Mother’s persistence is
home already. No point linked directly to her
having it around.” memories, past
“just a building… It’s not experience and identity.
like it’s made of flesh and
blood. It’s just bricks and
cement.”
“My home. More than just
bricks and cement.”
Location Studies (Zion Mansion and 'Dream Homes') Staging and Point of View

“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome! To Heaven!” (7)

‘DREAM HOMES’ –
Show flats, Paradise, Mandai Columbarium, New Home
SETTING DESCRIPTION IMPLICATION THE DEEPER THE DEEPER
Place, Space, Time, What is being said about
Objects in a it?
AND EFFECT on MEANING MEANING
Physical, Historical or (Pay close attention to ATMOSPHERE WITHIN THE OUTSIDE THE
Cultural location details in the text: diction What do the descriptions
(word choice, mean? What do the
TEXT TEXT
expressions, imagery, How does this compare Why does the text say
descriptions suggest in a
similes, metaphors...). Do literal or non-literal way? with other parts of the this? Why does the
they contribute to a text? Why does the author write about this?
What, tone ideas and
single idea?) character say this? (Think about Motivation,
feelings do they
(Think about motivation, intention and purpose)
communicate?
intention and purpose)
Act 1, Scene 1 - The show-
flat
Act 2, Scene 2 – Getting
Busted

Act 2, Scene 5 –
Columbarium
advertisement

Act 2, Scene 19 – Mother


dreams of becoming a
mynah

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