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How to identify themes, styles and character traits in set books


Date Posted: 6/29/2018 2:42:27 AM

Posted By: Aeren   Membership Level: Bronze  Total Points: 92

How to identify themes, styles and character traits in set books

It is easy to get a perfect score when writing an essay based on set texts and even easier to answer questions based on excerpts. The idea is to read the entire text and understand the characters and their traits, the themes presented by the writer and the stylistic devices that have been used. What are they? Of what use are they to the reader or the writer? Would the text be any different if they are omitted? Lastly, how do they affect presentation of the story? To answer all these questions, allow me to give examples using the iconic The river and the source for better understanding. I will also use some stories in the collection of short stories When the sun goes down and other stories.

Beginning with themes, let us see how to identity them in a novel or a short story. Themes are the important issues brought out by the writer, they are the silent messages from the author. We need to ask ourselves, why has he/ she written this book, what lessons do we learn from the book, our answers are the themes. For instance, Margaret Ogola writes to educate us on change, pioneering spirit of women, tradition, religion, family relations, and other contemporary issues such as politics and HIV/ AIDS. In short stories such as Twilight Trek we find issues such as crime and immigration, while in others such as Arrested Development, we find themes such as tribalism and corruption. It is important to note that modern writers are slowly switching to writing about contemporary issues in the society. Their aim being to educate the youth who are their main readers. For you to present an issue as a theme, try to point

out the issue that affects most characters and the one that runs through most of the text. An issue being mentioned in just one paragraph does not warranty a theme. It has to have significance to the entire story and the characters as well. When asked the significance of the themes mention that they aid in the plot and the setting. If we have the theme of tradition, automatically the story is set in an ancient time,as we find in The bamboo hut . Remember, a theme is given as a noun and explained by giving instances and the characters involved.

The characters involved are the major part of the story. A story is not a story if it does not have characters. They are the people mentioned in the story and they are the ones that build the plot for us. We follow the characters on their journey and see things from their perspective. Similarly, when identifying characters, ensure that you mention only the ones that are significant to the plot if the story. There are main characters and the minor ones. The main characters play the major role in the story ( protagonists and antagonists). For instance in The River and the Source, the main characters include Akoko, Owuor Kembo, Obura, Nyabera, Elizabeth, Aoro, Becky, Vera, just to name a few, while the minor characters included Owang Sino, Ogoma Kwatch, Mary also just to name a few. How do you identity their trait? Identify what they do and what they say first, then identify what other characters say about them. For example Akoko is brought out as wise, hardworking and resilient. We see this because of what she does and what other characters say about her. Character traits are always given as adjectives and supported by illustrations from the text.

Lastly we need to look at stylistic devices used in stories. These are arguably the main reason why we find ourselves glued to books. A story without stylistic devices is just a long passage that is plain and boring. Authors use styles for various reasons such as entertainment, to bring out character traits, or even to build on the plot. The styles used depend on the setting of the stor the Kind of story it is and even the kind of author. Margaret Ogola uses songs, local dialect, dialogue, direct translation, biblical allusion, and epistolary just to mention a few. In other stories such as The mirror, we find styles such as First person point of view; in when the sun goes down flashback and satire have been used, while in twilight trek, dream sequence has been used. Other styles used by authors include foreboding, vivid description, personification and irony.
Once these have been identified writing an essay and answering questions based on set texts becomes very easy for any student of English and literature.

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