Literary Concepts

University of Phoenix Material


Plot—the main plan or story of a literary work. The term “plot” implies foresight in planning a complex scheme. A story is a series of events recorded in their chronological order. A plot is a series of events deliberately arranged to reveal their dramatic, thematic, and emotional significance. A plot contains conflict, crisis, and resolution of the story.

Theme—a common thread or repeated idea incorporated throughout a literary work. A theme is often an abstraction of “a” human truth that is brought to life by the details of the work. A theme may even be a unique way of stating a universal human problem. Theme is rooted in text. It is not a paraphrase of what the work is “about.” Generally, a theme is extracted as the reader explores the passages of a work.

Setting—the atmosphere in a literary work. It is the time, place, physical details, and circumstances inside a story, poem, essay, or drama. Settings include the environment in which characters live and move, including the physical characteristics of those surroundings. A setting may be simple or elaborate, used to create ambiance, lend credibility or realism, emphasize or accentuate, organize, or even distract the reader. Details help create in the reader a sense of familiarity with a setting that may be unfamiliar or reinforce the nuances of a familiar setting.

Character—the person (or even a setting) within a work. Characters are portrayed by appearance, speech, action, and thought and are the medium through which a reader interacts with a story, poem, or essay. An author uses the character’s personality to form or further the plot or to create a mood. The different attitudes, mannerisms, and even appearances of a character can influence the other characters and thereby propel the story forward.

Point of view (POV)—the vantage point from which the story or poem is conveyed to the reader. Who is speaking? In the first person point...