The events in Joanne Harris’ short story “A Place in the Sun” take place in a fictional segregated society, a dystopia where citizens gain access to social advantages based on their physical appearance. Therefore, the setting is probably meant to be read as futuristic.

Physical setting

The opening paragraph of the story references Brazil: “There are beaches in Brazil where prospective bathers are vetted according to age and looks, and from which the old, the ugly and the overweight are barred…” (ll. 3-4). Although this could initially lead the reader to assume that the action takes place in contemporary Brazil, several details related to the social setting indicate that the writer imagines an alternate or futuristic reality.

Multiple references to beaches indicate that the protagonist lives at the seaside in a hot country like Brazil, but the precise location remains unclear.

We learn that the protagonist wants to earn a spot at the exclusive Platinum Sands™ beach. The Platinum beach is organised to ensure privacy and respect the highest aesthetic standards: “real palm trees to hide the perimeter fence; filter-nets to discourage unwanted visitors; air-purifiers for year-round freshness; (…) twin watchtowers, staffed by A-grade coastguards” (ll. 10-13); “The zone is completely litter-free (…). Weeds, stones and beach-life are painstakingly screened, examined and, if necessary, removed.” (ll. 15-17)

The protagonist is a member of a less exclusive beach, Silver Sands™, which only has plastic palm trees and less...

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