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What Is the Setting of "Helen on Eighty Sixth Street"?


In Wendi Kaufman’s short story “Helen on 86th Street,” the main character, Vita, is miscast in her sixth-grade class play -- according to her, that is. The setting of the story explains the time and place, and these vary as Vita attempts to deal with her problem. The tale opens with Vita living in an apartment on West 86th Street in Manhattan. Although the specific time period is not identified, it has a contemporary feel. The period of time runs from the initial casting of the play to the performance.

86th Street and Beyond

The author does not provide specifics for most of the settings. Vita’s apartment is not described. Instead, details cover what Vita does there, such as talking with her mom, making her costume and writing to her father. Part of the story takes place in a rehearsal room. Again, the author spends time relating what happens at practice -- wearing costumes, interacting with the director -- rather than depicting the location. Only the auditorium, where Vita finally fulfills her dream of playing Helen of Troy. is represented fully. The reader can visualize smoke from the dry-ice machine, bright lights, scenery, filled seats and even the heavy, red stage curtains.

About the Author

Living in upstate New York, Susan Sherwood is a researcher who has been writing within educational settings for more than 10 years. She has co-authored papers for Horizons Research, Inc. and the Capital Region Science Education Partnership. Sherwood has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction from the University at Albany.

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