Importance Of Language In Literature TOPIC 3: READING LITERARY WORKS | ENGLISH FORM 4 How does literature differ from other works of art?


Literary works are works that are imaginatively created by literary artists. These works are said to be imaginative because they are the author’s creation. Interestingly, these authors do not write in a vacuum, instead they write from their experiences of the world they live in.

It is these experiences of the world that make their works reflect reality of day to day life. These literary works range from short stories, Novels, Plays to Poems.

Literature is the branch of art which use language to convey message to the society by using creative techniques involved in the language. It can be oral or written literature. Literature divided into Oral Literature and Written literature (Novels, Plays, Poetry and short stories).


Setting – it is the place and time a literary world was written. The time referred here does not necessarily match with the time of publication.

Plot – it is the organization of events/incidents in a story. It is the logical arrangement of incidents. The plot of the work of art may be Flashback (the story starts with what happened last in the story) or Straight forward (the story starts from the beginning to the end).

Characters – A character is an animate or inanimate who has been given a role to play in a work of art. Characters are used in plays, short stories and novels. It is not common to find characters in poems because poems do not use clearly identifiable people.

Characters are very important in literary works because they depict themes and messages authors wish to convey to their readers.

Types of characters

Characters categorized into:

1. Main character is the one that act as the mouthpiece of the author. In other words, we can say that the main character appears throughout the work i.e. from the beginning to the end of the literary work.

2. Minor character is the one that occurs very occasionally. Sometimes a minor character occurs once in a literary work. But whether a minor character occurs once or more than once, his/her role is to add some information to what main character do.


What is a theme?

A theme refers to the dominant ideas in a work of art. It is the central idea in a work of art. Artist do not write for the sake of writing, rather they write because they have things to tell their readers. We know what the literary artists want to tell the readers by looking at themes.

Any topic can be a theme. A theme is normally something that has a moral lesson. So, anything with moral lesson qualifies to be a theme. Things such as corruption, betrayal, oppression, justice, exploitation, ignorance etc. may be regarded as themes.

Ways of identifying themes in a literary works:

1. Reading between lines because literary works are written using a very artistic language. Therefore, the reader need not to take the language of literary works for granted rather he/she should think hard to see the relationship between the language and the life in the real world.

2. Observing the type of characters used in a work of art because different characters have different roles.

3. By considering recurrent incidents some word or incidents are repeated over and over purposely.

4. Using the reader’s experience because writers do not come from beyond the sky and through experience the reader may realize that a particular author is talking about corruption, betrayal or any other issues through experience.


Poems are written using more artistic language than short stories, novels and plays. Normally poetry uses few words to convey a lot of information with a lot of figures of speech.

Terms used in poems

1. Stanza – is a group of lines in a poem.

2. Verse – is a single line in a poem.

3. Tone/Voice – refers to attitude towards the subject matter especially in a song (poem) e.g.sad, unhappy, satiric, dislike etc.

4. Mood – refers to state of mind or attitude of a poet about what is being said especially in a poem e.g.angry, unhappy, dislike etc.

5. Poem – it is a piece of writing in verse form especially expressing deep feelings in a beautiful language.

6. Poet/poetess – is a person who composes a poem.

7. Persona – it is a character or speaker in the poem.

8. Rhyme – is the repetition of similar sounds at a regular interval.

9. Rhythm – is the systematic arrangement of musical sounds according to duration and periodical stress.

Steps of interpreting poems

Read the poem aloud – this helps you to listen to its rhythm.

Read it silently – trying to ponder what each word means.

Use dictionary – to get the meaning of difficult/strange words.

Paraphrase the poem – say what the poem is all about by your own words.

Identify who is the speaker in the poem – whether there are two or more speakers.

Identify the themes – say what you think themes being discussed in the poem.

Describe the poetic features found in the poem i.e. rhyme, rhythm, refrain etc.

Describe the language of the poem – say whether the language used is simple or complex


Books: Poetry

Growing up with poetry
Song of Lawino & Ocol

Books: Novels

Passed Like A Shadow
Unanswered Cries
A wreath for Father Mayer
Weep Not, Child
The Interview

Books: Plays

This Time Tomorrow
Three Suitors One Husband
The Lion and The Jewels
The Black Hermit




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