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Elements of Literature

—by Ajanta Bhattacharyya
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Have you read "Robinson Crusoe" or Charles Dickens’s "Great Expectations"? If yes, then you must know the taste of literature. Have you gone through Virginia Wolf’s often quoted line: "Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." This echoes the beauty hidden in literature.

We can summarize literature in the words of Ezra Pound that great literature is simply language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree. Every race has its own literature, for example, English literature, American literature, German literature, etc. Various types of literature such as story, novel and drama delight us through the elements of literature. In literature, theme is important to reveal the story. An author depicts the ups and downs of the protagonist with the help of characterization. The story progresses through various plots. There are prologues and epilogues in Shakespearean drama.

Facts on Elements of Literature

Elements of literature denote the things that are used to make up a work of literature. There are different types and forms of literature. They are novel, drama, poetry, biography, non-fictional prose, essay, epic and short story. All these types of literature have some elements. To complete a piece of literature, a writer, dramatist or a novelist need to use certain elements like plot, character, theme, etc. However, elements of fiction and elements of drama differ from elements of poetry. These elements are discussed below:

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Elements of Fiction and Drama

Literary types such as fiction; drama and short story have some elements. These include

  • Plot
  • Character
  • Setting
  • Theme
  • Structure
  • Point of view
  • Conflict
  • Diction
  • Foreshadowing

Plot: Plot is the serial arrangement of incidents, ideas or events. In literature, the plot encompasses all the incidents and provides aesthetic pleasure. The story of the novel progresses through various plots and conflicts. Plots of dramas are divided into "Acts" and "Scenes". Drama has five essential parts. These are:

  • Introduction of the story where the characters and setting are introduced
  • Rising action
  • Climax
  • Falling action
  • Denouement

Playwrights use dialogue to develop their plots. They reveal information about their characters such as their background and personality.


Character: Character plays a pivotal role in a drama, novel, short story and all kinds of narratives. In drama, character reflects the personality of the protagonist and other related characters. The method of conveying information about characters in art is called characterization. Characters can be fictional or based on real, historical entities. It can be human, supernatural, mythical, divine, animal or personifications of an abstraction. There are round characters, flat characters, stereotypical stock characters, etc. In Marlowe’s drama "The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus", Faustus is the main character of the play.

Find out about Elements of Poetry on page 2 of Elements of Literature

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