All novels create numerous settings that, together, create a world in which the characters of the novel exist. Certain settings in the novel will be created as the residing environments of the dominant characters, whilst others are created such that they contrast the comfortable settings, and allow for an uncomfortable and foreign environment for these characters to encounter. The latter of these settings position the characters to respond to them with much reflection upon their own environments, and thus upon their societies, and themselves as individuals. Each setting is constructed such that it exhibits physical, historical, social, and moral attributes, and resultantly each has a different effect on the main characters of the text psychologically. Such an interaction allows for the creation of the novel's meaning. A Fringe of Leaves by Patrick White is a novel whose major themes circulate around the protagonist Ellen, and her journey of self-discovery by breaking free of the moral and social conventions of her nineteenth-century Anglo-Centric society. By constructing various settings outside of the protagonist's comfortable environment that she is forced to encounter during the progression of events within the narrative, the novel A Fringe of Leaves by Patrick White creates its meaning.
Perhaps the most apparent feature of each of the settings within A Fringe of Leaves is their physical description. Such a description reveals to the reader not only the imagery of the scene, but also the main characters" points of view on the setting, and the connotations, or meaning, that the setting beholds. Tasmania, which lies outside of the protagonist Ellen's comfortable setting, is described from Ellen's point of view as being "by turns cultivated and wild" and violent. She describes the landscape as having a cultural feature, "An occasional stone cottage or hut built of wattle-and-daub", which is dominated by a wild feature, "the tiered forests towering above them".