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THE ELEMENTS OF LITERATURE

EECE 441
Spring 2003
P. Werre
1. Plot The arrangement of a storys events to achieve an artistic effect.
o Typically will have a beginning, middle, and end.
o Two basic plot patterns are episodic or progressive. Episodic plots move
from one incident to another, never building to a major turning point (crisis
or climax). Progressive plots move from a beginning through complications
and conflict to a climax or crisis and then to resolution.
o Conflict is the usual source of plot in literature.
Person against person
Person against society
Person against nature
Person against self
2. Characterization The artistic representation of the appearance and personality of
characters in a literary work.
o Characters are revealed through dialogue (what they say and what others say
about them), their actions, their appearance, their interior feelings and
motivations, and through explicit narrative description.
3. Setting In literature, the time and place of a story.
o Setting may serve several purposes.
Setting as mood.
Setting as antagonist.
Setting as historical background.
Setting as symbolism.
4. Theme The basic meaning or underlying idea of a story.
o Theme may be stated by characters or transmitted through authors
narrative.
o Themes for younger children develop around experience and emotions that
are important for young readers.
o Themes for older children focus on human development and consequences
that result from choices.

5. Style Use of language to create plots, characters and settings and to express
themes.
o Devices of style include figurative language (e.g. similes and metaphors),
symbols, allusions, wordplay, understatement, hyperbole, imagery, rhythm
and repetition.
6. Point of View Who is telling the story and how much the narrator will know about
the thoughts of others.
o First-person point of view speaks through the I of one of the characters
and records his/her own thoughts and actions but cannot retell the thoughts
of others unless those characters reveal themselves in conversation.
o Omniscient point of view tells story in third person (they, he, or she) and is
not limited in reporting details of the thoughts, actions and conversations of
all characters.
o Limited omniscient point of view tells story in third person and is limited to
reporting the thoughts and feelings of only one or a few characters.
o Objective point of view author does not reveal the thoughts of the
characters, instead the readers interpretation results from presentation of
action and conversation.

Latrobe, Kathy H., Carolyn S. Brodie, and Maureen White. The Childrens Literature Dictionary. New York: Neal Schuman, 2002.
Norton, Donna E. and Saundra E. Norton. Through the Eyes of a Child: An Introduction to Childrens Literature. 6th ed. Upper Saddle River,
NJ: Merrill Prentice Hall, 2003.

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