Setting

The short story “The Abortion” by Alice Walker is set in the United States in the 1970s as the references to New York and abortions becoming legal indicat…

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Physical setting

The physical setting is an unnamed American town where the characters live. Elements of the physical setting include Imani and Clarence’s house, the Baptist church, and the clinic in New York where Imani has the abortion.

The references to Imani and …

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Social setting

First of all, in the story abortions only became legal recently. Historically, we know that abortions became legal throughout the US in 1973. Before that, women would pay a lot of money to have an illegal and unsafe abortion done, as indicated by Imani’s story about her abortion in college.

By exploring Imani and her husband’s attitude to the abortion, the story suggests that women still lived in a patriarchal (male-dominated) society, and often didn’t feel fully free to take decisions over their body: “Still not in control of her sensuality, and only through violence and with money (for the flight, for the operation itself) in control of her body.”

The social setting suggests the complicated reasons for choosing abortion and the difficulty of making such a decision. Clarence does not try to convince Imani to keep the baby. It is suggested that this is partly because he is concerned for his career, but also because he does not want to interfere with his wife’s decision about her own body. This points to the complexity of abortion decisions, since it concerns both the father, the mother, and the unborn child.…

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