The One and Only Ivan – Literature – Setting

In the book The One and Only Ivan, the micro and macro settings play a major role.

Micro setting

The story takes place in a circus-themed shopping mall in the United States. Malls have a high importance to Americans; it is very normal to have one close by. There you have a great variety of shops, for example shoes and clothing stores, as well as small institutions such as banks. In addition to this, entertainment for customers is guaranteed with cinemas, bars and restaurants. The shopping mall in The One and Only Ivan differs from other malls because it has animals for the visitors’ amusement and this is unique. Animals are seen as objects and not as living beings by the customers and the owner of the mall. They don’t even recognize and care about their wellbeing. The only reason why they are in the mall is to amuse the customers and to make money. In comparison to the people who only come for amusement, the animals have not left the mall for 27 years. They always stay alone in their cages. Furthermore, most of the animals are the only ones of their species so they are surrounded by other animals and humans. These circumstances lead to frustration, loneliness and resignation on the side of the animals and even worse, a loss of identity.

In comparison to their cages at the big Top Mall, the animals see the zoo as a wonderful place to live. This may seem like a paradox because living in a zoo means life in a cage. But still the author makes us believe that the zoo is a better place for animals and that this is the place where they can find happiness. Stella’s description of a zoo demonstrates this: “a good zoo is how humans make amends” (Applegate 64). When Ivan first arrives at the zoo there isn’t much difference in the cage except that now he is completely on his own, without the other animals. But this fact changes in time when Ivan gets united with the others of his species. He can be the silverback gorilla he always wanted to be.