The meaning of Literature

Literature, in its broadest sense, is any single body of written works. More restrictively, literature is a writing considered to be an art form, or any single writing deemed to have artistic or intellectual value, often due to deploying language in ways that differ from ordinary usage. Literature contain the following function or importance to the society:

  1. Expanding horizons, First and foremost, literature opens our eyes and makes us see more than just what the front door shows. It helps us realize the wide world outside, surrounding us. With this, we begin to learn, ask questions, and build our intuitions and instincts. We expand our minds.
  2. Building critical thinking skills, Many of us learn what critical thinking is in our language arts a class. When we read, we learn to look between the lines. We are taught to find symbols, make connections, find themes,and learn about characters. Reading expands these skills, and we begin to look at a sentence with a larger sense of detail and depth and realize the importance of hidden meanings so that we may come to a conclusion.
  3. A leap into the past, History and literature are entwined with each other. History is not just about power struggles, wars, names, and dates. It is about people who are products of their time, with their own lives. Today the world is nothing like it was in the 15th century; people have changed largely. Without literature, we would not know about our past, our families, the people who came before and walked on the same ground as us.
  4. Appreciation for other cultures and beliefs, Reading about history, anthropology, or religious studies provides a method of learning about cultures and beliefs other than our own. It allows you to understand and experience these other systems of living and other worlds. We get a view of the inside looking out, a personal view and insight into the minds and reasoning of someone else. We can learn, understand, and appreciate it.
  5. Better writing skills, When you open a book, when your eyes read the words and you take in its contents, do you ask yourself: How did this person imagine and write this? Well, many of those authors, poets, or playwrights used literature to expand their writing.
  6. Addressing humanity, All literature, whether it be poems, essays, novels, or short stories, helps us address human nature and conditions which affect all people. These may be the need for growth, doubts and fears of success and failure, the need for friends and family, the goodness of compassion and empathy, trust, or the realization of imperfection. We learn that imperfection is not always bad and that normal can be boring. We learn that life must be lived to the fullest. We need literature in order to connect with our own humanity.

Elements of Literature

There are two elements of literature these are form and content.

These element are sometimes called Aspect of literature, analysis of literature is done through the two element form and content.

Note: Form and content are said to be the cup and tea in literature, so we can separate each term to complete a work of literature

  • In other words form and content are two side of the same coin
  • But normally form determines content


What is form?

Form is simply the super structure of the literary work or Is the upper layer of literature work which determine the content in the literary work site. It determine its beautifulness

Element of form

Form is made up with the following element:

  1. Title
  2. Setting
  3. Plot
  4. Style
  5. Character and characterization
  6. Language use

These elements used to analyze form in a literature work


Refer to the literary heading that verifies the names of literary work e.g.

  • a) In play
  • b) In poetry
  • c) In novel

The title carries the general meaning of the literary work.

The title of the literary work can be used

  1. Symbolically
  2. Metaphorical title
  3. Ironically title

Example of title books in literature work

  1. House boy
  2. Secret lives
  3. Girls at war
  4. House boy
  5. The lion and jewel
  6. Three solid stones
  7. The trial of brother Jero etc

2. Setting

Refers to the place and time where literary event are done or present

This means, setting include two things:

  1. Place
  2. Time

Place refers to area or the point where the literary events are conducted.

Literarily place can be

  1. In urban area
  2. In rural area
  3. In hospital etc

Time refers to the period when the literary event are taken i.e. period –season /age

  1. During colonial era
  2. During primitive
  3. During irone age
  4. During pre–colonial era


  • The setting for the combine written by Amadi E is said it was written during colonial era.

Ways to determine the setting

The following are ways of determine the setting of literary work;

  1. By using the name of the character E.g. surnames are mostly used example Brother Nyoka, Father Kafupi both names are found in the book of wreath of father Mayer
  2. Imaginative setting is asserting created on people mind example kinjekitile, kusadikika

Note: Setting is a setting which directly a real event

  1. a walk in the night
  2. the government inspector

3. Plot

What is a plot?

The general arrangement of literary events or is the flow arrangement of the literary event example how the literacy event flow.

Types of plot

There are two major plots in plot which are:

  1. Chronological plot
  2. Unchronological plot


  • Refers to the straight forward arrangement of events in a literary work.i.e. the event are arranged in series from the begin to the end.
  • Ascending order arrangement goes from chapter 1, chapter 2, chapter 3 to the end.
  • This plot is sometimes called straight forward


  • Refers to un-straight forward arrangement of the literary event in literature.This means events are neither in ascending nor descending order.
  • E.g. Event are mixed up chapter 3, chapter2, chapter 4, chapter 1 to the end


Is a literary technique used to contract the literary work.

  • Example the cover style, the title style, the front size

Types of style

There are three types of style;

  1. monologue style
  2. dialogue style
  3. poetic style

Monologue style

Is a style that in which one person speaks in the literary work in most cases? The speaker may be author of the character sometimes is called Narrative style.

Note: Narrative monologue style is commonly used in novel and short stories

Dialogue style

Is a style in which two people speaker by a chance on the issue. It is sometimes called conversational styles

Notes: Dialogue or conversation style is commonly used in play/drama

Poetic style

Is a styles in which a literary work are told in form of verse and stanza, this types of style it common in poetry

The following are other styles in a literary work;

  1. A play within a play
  2. Flash back
  3. Letter styled
  4. Phone style
  5. Code switching style

5. Character and characterization

a) Characters

  • Characters in written literature are only human being
  • Character in literature are even most importance because it through them were different action are derived from.
  • the actions portray the messages
  • thus no characters no action and no actions no messages is portrayed

Example of characters in literature in English;

  • Sidi, Sadiku, Baroka, Kalisia, Sentry

Types of characters

There are two major types of characters

  • Main character: These are characters that exist from the beginning of a story to Almost the end i.e. the life of main characters is seen from the beginning to the end. Example Toundi, Onduoa, Father Gilbert, Sadiku
  • Minor characters: These are characters that don’t exist from the beginning to the end, they normally exist from some chapters or acts and disappear.Minor characters are attached to the main characters.They carry minor themes. Example Lakunle, Okiki, Member of Parliament


The following are form of characters:

  1. Protagonist characters: This Is a character that the society is required to learn a lot from him/her. This is characterized by many goods acts than bad once. For example women, fighting of colonialism, fighting against drug abuse, fighting against corruption, fighting against all kind of exploitation. Mostly, a protagonist character is the main characters
  2. Antagonist characters:This Is a character that is mostly against the protagonist characters?Antagonist characters is normally characterized by bad acts in most cases. Is the character that the audience (society) hate much his/her action and social appearance is cruel and brutal by nature.
  3. Round characters:Is a character who rotates on either bad or good acts in all his/her life. This character are not well classified to their philosophy or stands
  4. Developing character:They are characters who keeps on changing from bad or good to good or bad E.g. due to peer pressure influence, this character is sometime called dynamic
  5. Dramatic characters: Is a character in action that normally carries comic that cause people to laugh
  6. Flat characters: Is a character who adopt only a part or side acts of the literary , he/she may see the effects but want to solve them by being there.
  7. Static characters:Is a characters whose doesn’t change his/her behavior regardless it is good or bad
  8. Expository character:Is a character who is narrated by the another or other character



These are figurative expression used to add the artistic meaning to the literary work or Are literary creative expressions used in literary works, there are more than 200 figures of speech, and some examples of figure of speech are

  1. Anaphora/repetition: Is the repetition of word or phrases of some content or theme. Anaphora aims to give an emphasis, anaphora is some time called repetition. Example Come here! Come here! Come here!, No! No! No!, Ok! Ok! Ok!
  2. Simile:A stated comparison ( usually formed with like or as between two fundamentally dissimilar things that have certain qualities in common example reboot was white as a sheet after he walked out of the horror movies or A state comparison ( usually formed with like or as between two fundamentally dissimilar things that have certain qualities in common example Robert was white as a sheet after he walked out of the horror movie
  3. Onomatopoeia: The use of words that imitate the sound associated with the object or actions they refers to example the clap of thunder went bang and scared my poor dog.
  4. Oxymoron: A figure of speech in which incongruous or contradictory term appear side by side e.g. I am graceful as a bull in a china shop when I dance.
  5. Metaphor: An implied comparison between dissimilar things that have something in common examples all the worlds as a stage.

The Theory of Poetry

Explain the Theory of Poetry

What is poetry?

Poetry has been defined in several ways by different scholars/expert. This means, there is different definition of poetry, some of them are;

  • Poetry is the writing that formulate a concentrated, imaginative awareness of experience chose and arranged to create a specific emotional responses through its meaning sound and rhythms
  • Poetry is a rhythmical composition of words expressing an attitude designed to surprise and delight , arouse an emotional responses
  • Poetry is a literary gene that is in line and material form, sharper in figurative language use and very economical in the amount of world unused compared to other genres


Poetry has got feature that distinguished it among other genres, such feature include the following;

  • Poetry is very economical in the language, it uses few word to convey a lot issue .what is expressed in one stanza of a poem , may take a good number of paragraph and pages to be expressed in novel.
  • Poetry use musical feature such as rhyme, alliteration. anaphora, epiphora, all these are there to add musical quality to the poem , thus enabling it to be sung, they are very importance devices in the poem because a poem is primarily written to be sung , these are only found in poem that’s why sometimes they are called poetic devices because you cannot find them in a novel or play.
  • In structure poetry is arranged in verse that from stanza . This is different from the structure of a novel or play, novel are arranged in paragraph which makes chapter while poems like eat more by joy crone in which rhyming pattern is regular throughout.
  • Modern/free verse poetry, is a kind of poetry that does not follow/observe the traditional rule of poetry writing, poem in modern poetry do not focus on the regular rhyming patterns but on themes of poem, called free verse because they are free to follow the rules.


  1. Lyric poem, is a poem that expresses the feeling of the speaker toward the subject matter that he/she talks about, such as feeling can be about happiness sadness or a Lyric poem is a poem that expresses the feeling of the speaker toward the subject matter that he/she talks about, such as feeling can be about happiness sadness or a surprise. Good example of lyric poems are poor women by Jwani Mwaikusa in which poem express felling of surprise to ignorant women who kill her own child.
  2. Epic poem, An epic is a long poem that talks about the actions of a great hero or heroine. Epic is like a story which is given in poetic form. It is sometimes known as a heroic poem a good example of poem is the Sundiata Epic by Djbril Tamsir Niane, that talks about the ancient hero of the Ancient Sudanic state of Mali Empire.
  3. Elegy, Is a lyric poem that mourns for someone who has died. It is a formal and sustained lament in verse for the death of a particular person, usually ending in a consolation. It is a mournful, melancholic or plaintive poem, especially funeral song or a lament for the dead.
  4. Dirge, The dirge is a versified expression of grief on the occasion of particular person’s death, but differs from the elegy in that it is short, is less formal, and is usually represented as a text to be sung.
  5. Ode, Is an elaborately structured poem praising or glorifying an individual. A good example of an ode is a song that praises the Independence Day, song that glorify / praise J.K. Nyerere or the song that is sung on the wedding ceremony.
  6. Didactic poem, It is a poem that directs / gives instructions to the reader audience. It is an informative, educational and instructional poem in which the reader is expected to learn some skill, science, philosophy, love or craft. The primary intention of a didactic poem is not to entertain but to teach. Examples didactic poems include “Your Pain” by Armando Guebuza in which the person encourages people to join the fighting, “Front Line” by George Shea in which people are told to sacrifice their lives for the sake of freedom or the poem, We Must Die” by Claude Mackay that directs the audience to wage a strong fight that will make them die a noble death.
  7. Narrative poem. It is a poem that tells of a story. A narrative poem gives an account of event or a particular story. It is also known as a descriptive poem. A good example of a narrative poem is “Building the nation”, composed Henry Barlow in which the driver narrates to the audience what happen between him and the PS throughout the day. Another example of narrative poem is “Once upon a time” written by Gabriel Okara, whereby the person narrates to his son the ways in which his friends have in the past times at their current behaviors. “Freedom Song” by Oludhe Macgoye is also a narrates poem because it narrates Atieno’s life from the time she is eight years till when she dies or the poem, “Stanley meets Mutesa” by David Rubadiri, a poem the gives an account on the arrival of white missionaries in Uganda (Africa).
  8. Lullaby, Is a song which is sung to a baby to make it sleep/stop crying. A good example of a lullaby is found on pg 3. In the book, growing up with Poetry an anthology for secondary schools, edited by David Rubadiri (1989); it is a song from the Akan people of Ghana. In this lullaby, the persona assures her child that she loves her despite the degree of poverty that persona has. It is a song that comforts the child.


  • Verse. Is a single line in a Poem. When verses/lines are put together, they form a stanza.
  • Stanza. Is a group of verses that expresses a certain idea. The idea which is stated in one stanza may be complete by itself or completed by the stanza that follows.
  • Poet/Poetess. Is a person who composes/writes poems/poetry. Examples of poets are Henry Barlow, Jwani Mwaikusa, Isaac Mruma, Freeman P. Lwamba, and David Rubadiri. Oludhe Macgoye is a poetess because she is a woman.
  • Poetic license. Is a freedom that the poet has to go against (violate) grammatical rules for a particular purpose.
  • Mood. Is the feeling of the persona towards the subject matter in the poem. These feelings can be about happiness, grief/sorrow, anger, sadness etc
  • Tone. Tone is the quality of somebody’s voice, especially expressing a particular emotion. It is from this voice we get to know the persona/poet’s state of mind and his attitude towards the subject matter (the issue he talks about). Tone is the voice from which we can detect whether the speaker is happy, angry, serious, jocular, sad, ironic, etc. The difference between mood and tone is that, tone is the voice that indicates the persona’s attitude, while mood is the feeling.
  • Rhyme. Is the similarity in sounds at the end of consecutive lines or at the same intervals in a stanza. If rhymes are patterned in a regular scheme, we say that the particular poem is a traditional one, but if it is irregular, we say the poem is modern/free verse on. Examples will be given in the actual analysis of poems in the coming chapters.
  • Rhythm. Is the arrangement/pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in the poem. Sometimes rhythm in the poem can be made by the arrangement of sentences (long and short sentences).
  • Symbols and Symbolism. A symbol is a word, object, feature that stands for something. A symbol represents/ symbolizes /implies something despite that is has its own meaning. For example a cross may symbolize Christianity or first aid. Symbolism is the use of words, objects that stand for other things. Symbolism is the use of symbols. Poems employ much use of symbolic language. When reading a poem, the reader should pay attention to the symbolic language. When reading a poem, the reader should pay attention to the symbols because they help to give meaning to the poem.
  • Alliteration. Is the repetition of the same/similar consonant sound at the beginning of consecutive words in the same verse. A good example of alliteration has been used in the poem, poor woman, where the poet writes;“….Faked food he ate….”
  • Image and imagery. Image is a word or subject that brings a mental picture into our mind. Imagery is the use of words that bring mental pictures into the mind of the reader. Poems are full of images. The images used in poems are those which appeal to our common senses such as;Visual-appealing to the sense of sight, Auditory- appealing to the sense of hearing, Tactile- appealing to the sense of touch, Gustatory- appealing to the sense of taste, Thermal- appealing to the sense of heat and cold, Kinetic- appealing to the sense of motion, Olfactory- appealing to the sense of smell.


A poem like other works of art uses figurative language. This means in a poem, it is obvious to find figures of speech like; metaphor, simile, hyperbole, personification, irony, onomatopoeia, satire, sarcasm, understatement.

  • Simile. Is a figure of speech that compares two different things by using conjunctions such as….as, like……such as…….etc. Example of a simile is “she is as beautiful as an angel.” Here the girl (human being) is compared to an angel (the super being).
  • Metaphor. Is a figure of speech that compares two different things without using conjunctions. Example “she is an angel”
  • Hyperbole. Is the exaggeration of the fact. Example, “our teacher became angry to the extent that he wanted to burst”. OR “when I saw her beauty, my heart stopped working”
  • Personification. Is a figure of speech that gives the qualities of a human being to no-human objects. Example, “when the blew, the ocean became angry”. This is personification because the ocean (which is a non-human thing), has been given the attribute of a human being (feeling angry).
  • Onomatopoeia. Is the use of words that suggest meaning through the sounds contained.
  • Sarcasm. Is the use of language that aims at mocking somebody and wounding one’s feelings. It is like abusing someone indirect. Example of sarcasm is said by the driver in the poem, Building the nation, where he calls himself and the PS that are two national builders, while the fact is that the PS had done nothing on that day except eating and drinking. He says so to mock the PS.
  • Satire. Is the use of humour, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices. It is a way of using humour to show that someone or something is foolish, weak, bad, etc. Humour means having the quality of amusing/coming futures.

Irony Is a figure of speech which is a contradiction or incongruity between what is expected and what actually occurs. It is the contrast between appearance and actual reality. It is a discrepancy between what is anticipated to be true and what is actually true.

There are three types of irony;

  1. Verbal irony. Is the use of words to mean something different from what person actually says. The main feature of verbal irony that sets it apart front other different types of irony is that it is used by a speaker intentionally occurs in conversation where a person aims to be understood as meaning something different to what his or her words literally mean. The difference between verbal irony and sarcasm is that sarcasm is used to cause harm.
  2. Dramatic irony. It occurs when the audience is aware of something that the characters in the story are not aware of. Dramatic irony makes the audience wait anxiously to know what will happen once the character finds out what they already know.
  3. Situational irony (sometimes called irony of events). This is a situation where the outcome is opposite to what was expected, a good example of a situational irony is found in the poem, Building the nation, by Henry Barlow in which the PS does contrary to what people have expected of him. He goes to the luncheon while the audience had expected that he would go to the office.

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