Saturday, February 12, 2011







The Meaning of Literature

Functions of Literature

Elements of Literature

a. characters

b. plot

c. Subject Matter/theme

d. setting

Narrative Technique




Types of poems

Elements of poetry

Poetic Devices



Types of drama

Elements of Drama



Types of prose

Elements of Novel






To God most high; and the literary genius, Mr. Victor Saduwa


For any student to perform well in Literature, he or she must be well-grounded in Literary Appreciation. Literary Appreciation is the bedrock of Literature. It covers literary principles, terms, techniques and devices. The SSCE Literature Paper 1 and some JAMB questions are based on literary appreciation. In addition literary appreciation’s knowledge is required for evaluation of poems, plays and prose works. For instance, a candidate may be asked in a Literature Examination to compare the dramatic technique used by one playwright to that of another. Such a student needs literary appreciation knowledge to answer such a question successfully. Moreover, to acquire the language of literary criticism, so as to use appropriate words to describe techniques/devices, expressions and situations employed in a literature text, literature students need a thorough study of literary appreciation.

This textbook is specially designed to furnish Senior Secondary School Students and JAMB candidates with the essential literary appreciation skills and knowledge they need to perform well in their Literature Examinations.

My special thanks go to the following persons who assisted me in the course of writing this textbook: Mr. Francis Dieseru, Mr. Moses,Miss Ayuba Abigail, Mr. Fatai J. among others.

Permit me also, to place on record my appreciation of the following authors whose works provided me with valuable information in the course of my research which has flowered into this textbook: Benson Omonode, Richard .J. Smith and Max .F. Schulz, Nanyen Ojukwu, Chinweikpe Iwuchukwu ,Sylvanus Igwebuike, William Shakespeare of blessed memory and a host of others.

Usiemure O. Christopher



Literary Appreciation is simply the ability to understand, enjoy and evaluate works of Literature. Evaluate here means to make judgment about the quality or value of literary work. Evaluation is usually an opinion about a given work, but it must be based on facts

The Paper one of the SSCE Literature usually requires candidates to answer questions on: Literary Appreciation and a Prescribed Shakespearean Text. Questions on Literature Appreciation are further divided into questions on general knowledge of literature, questions on unseen prose and poetry passages. This text is devoted to these aspects of Literature.

The Meaning of Literature

Literature is a word derived from a Latin word ‘Littera’ which means, ‘letter of the alphabet’. Literature as a field of study has many definitions. Some of these definitions tend to describe literature as writings valued as creative works, as writings of a country or as anything in print. However it is wrong to limit Literature to only written materials. An effort to reduce Literature to only written materials removes from Literature the Literature of Preliterate societies that were not written down. For example, Nigeria only began writing with the advent of European education in the 19th century. Should we then conclude that Nigeria had no Literature before the coming of the British Education, it would be a wrong conclusion. Of course, the proverbs, songs, folktales, riddles etc that existed in preliterate societies like Nigeria are forms of Literature. Creative writings valued as work of arts are only forms of literature. Literature is an umbrella word used to describe a variety of creative works of imagination that may be written or oral. We can also define Literature as imitation of Life. It is an imaginary composition. Literature is not a faithful record of reality as History is. This means Literature merely copies actual life people, events and situations.

Professor Egudu in his book, The Study of Poetry, describes Literature as ‘a mode or method of expression. This implies that Literature is concerned with the manner in which words are put together to express a new idea. It is not a subject that just says something new, but says that new thing with skillful manipulation of words as somebody plaiting hair dexterously weaves it to form a beautiful hairstyle like braid.

The Functions of Literature

We study literature because of its great value, which include the following;

1. Entertainment: One of the functions of literature is entertainment. The primary purpose of literature is to provide entertainment. A book that fails to provide entertainment can hardly pass for a literature book. We read novels, play, recite poems mainly for recreation. People tell stories or sing to entertain themselves. Referring to this function of literature, Horace had said that literature is out to please and delight

2. Mastering of English Language: By reading literary works composed in the English Language, students get familiar with new words and master the structure of the English Language.

3. Emotional Relief: By expressing our thought or our emotions as we often do through literary works or reading literature books, we release our emotions. This is because a literary work leaves us at the end of easthetic experience with a relax mind, by providing our emotions with focus.

4. Social Control: Literature serves as a weapon of social control. The literary artiste (i.e. novelist, poet, e.t.c.) is like a watch dog to the society. He barks the moment things start going wrong. Morality of the society is measured through his works. Also through works of literature wrong-doings of a society are exposed to all and sundry.

5. Literature also functions as a means of direct experience. Some literary works have the settings (background) of a foreign land we may not have been to. E.g. The Merchant of Venice written by Shakespeare has Venice, Belmont as well as Jewish and Christian traditions as its background. In the same vein, The Joys of Motherhood, written by Buchi Emechata has Ibusa, Lagos together with the Igbo culture as its background. Thus by reading such works, we get to know about the people and places reflected without having been to these lands.

6. Literature Mirrors Life: By this we mean that literature is a mimetic art. It imitates. The events, Situation and characters we find in literature shows real life situations. As we get amused by actions in literary works or condemn activities of some characters, we equally laugh at ourselves or condemn ourselves.

7. Literature is a reservoir of culture: When we read literary works written by people from other culture area, we get to know about those cultures. Sometimes we learn more about our own culture by reading works by authors from our culture area. This is because most of the literary works we read embodies culture of a group of people. Simply put, Literature is a store in which culture are stocked or preserved.

8. Literature Serves As Historical Document/ Social Document: A literary work would be used by historians as social document to reconstruct history of past society. This is because; a literary work conveys or reflects time it was written as well as the virtues and the prejudices of the time. The idea is that, every writer is influenced by the happenings of the time he is writing. In fact some novels, poems, plays e.t.c are reactions to political happenings at the time they were written.

9. Finally, Literature is also a means of education and enlightenment: It teaches new things and new ways of doing things. In so doing, it broadens our knowledge and builds our individual skills. In addition, it informs us about the happenings around us.


There are four basic elements of literature. This include

1. Character

2. Plot

3. Subject Matter/Theme

4. Setting

1. Characters: These are the people we read about in a literary work. In a literary work, a writer describing actions or ideas must as well describe the characters affected by the actions or ideas. The major interest of an audience is on the people in a drama. So also our central interest is on the characters in a novel. The author of a literary work makes his comments on society through his characters. A good writer must have complete knowledge of his characters; the way they look, how they talk, e.t.c. There are two identifiable ways of showing characters, namely are, Motivation and Setting.

Motivation: This refers to the reason for a character’s action. The reason for a character’s action must be given. In literature, as in life, characters dictate actions. For example, if Shylock had not insisted on Antonio’s pound of flesh, the play, Merchant of Venice would have been something different. A writer has to ensure that the reasons behind his character’s action are clear and logical.

2. Setting: It is the place in which a character’s story takes place. The people in literature, like the one who reads about them, do not exist in space. They act and react to one another. They also react to their world. The real geographical location, the period and cultural environment are some of the things which come together to form setting. For example, the setting of Sizwe Bansi is Dead is South Africa and the Apartheid regime. So also the settings of The Joys of Motherhood are Ibusa, Lagos as well as the Colonial period.

3. Plot: Every literary work has element of plot. Plot tells what happens to the characters. It is the story-line of a literary work. A plot is created around a series of event that occur within a specific period of time. There are no general rules guiding the order in which the events are arranged. However a good plot has a beginning, middle and an end. That is to say, the plot guides us from a character with problem {somewhere} through a character confronting the problem, {through somewhere} to the character overcoming or being overcome by the problem {to a point.}

E.M. Forster describes plot as “the arrangement of event in cause-effect relationship”. This means a plot tells us what makes something happens (cause) and what happens (effect). If there is no relationship between cause and effect, there will be no conflict, and therefore no plot.

A story is different from a plot. Story is the narration of a series of events or happenings in chronological order. Consider the example below:

a. Mr. Odudu died last week and was buried two days later. His children are in his home town sharing his property now.

This is a story telling us what events took place in order of time. (Chronological order)

b. Mr. Odudu died last week. It was uncertain what killed him, until it was discovered that he drank poison. His children had gone to his village to share his property as their tradition requires children of a deceased to inherit his belongings.

In the above, the cause of Mr. Odudu’s death was his drinking of poison. And the effect was his death. This is a good example of a plot. A story may have more than one plot. Hence we talk of major plot and sub-plot. Sub-plots are woven into the major plot.

4. Theme or Statement: Is the basic idea expressed by a literary work. It is the central idea or observation about life. It builds from the interplay of characters and plot. A theme may state that life is good or not good, or condemn crime or exonerate crimes. It may sanction or warn the reader to live a better life or adopt a new lifestyle. A good story directs the reader to the author’s conclusion.

5. Subject Matter: Often students mistake theme for subject-matter. Subject-matter is what is discussed by a literary work while the theme is derived from the comments on what is discussed or how the writer discusses the subject-matter. The things, people and events a writer writes about are the subject matter. We can liken a theme and subject-matter to the subject and predicate of a sentence. While the subject is what performs the action mentioned in a sentence, the predicate is the comment on the subject of the verb. E.g. Ojevwe went home. Here Ojevwe is the subject while went home is the comment (predicate).

Mr. and Mrs. Portrayal’s children are very good children. They are obedient and hard-working at home. They do all their assignments and home-works. They keep their house clean at all times and respect one another. Their good-manners and hard-work at school are indeed reflections of their good behavior at home. They are very intelligent too. This has made them win scholarships. Their parents and teachers praise them and are proud of them.

In this story, the subject-matter is Mr. and Mrs. Portrayal’s children. While the theme is good behaviour, is praise-worthy.

Mr. and Mrs. Portrayal’s children are very bad children. They are disobedient and lazy at home. They do not care to do their assignment and home-works when they get home from school. They don’t help their parents. They are the worst set of students at school. They give their teachers headache. They are lukewarm and dull set of students. Their behavior at school is the reflection of what they do at home. Their parents and teachers are ashamed of them and always punish them.

In the above plot the subject-matter is Mr. and Mrs. Portrayal’s children. Even though the subject-matter of this passage is the same as the first, the theme is different. What is the theme?

Style: Is the manner a writer uses words to create his literary work. The way a writer or a poet writes what they have to express. We can rarely enjoy a story’s characters or plot without enjoying the author’s style. A writer must solve problems of style from his first word to the last, by answering such questions as: What kind of words shall I use? How shall I present details? Should sentences be colloquial or formal? Should paragraphs be long or short?

Point Of View or Narrative Technique is a part of a writer’s style. Point of view may be first person Narrator, Third person Narrator, Third person limited, or Third Person Omniscient.

a. First Person Narrator: This is technique by which the writer tells his story as though he was one of the characters in the story. The writer uses I, We, Us instead of He/ She, They, Them.

b. Third Person Point Of View: Here the writer uses the third person pronouns (he/ she). The narrator/ writer stands apart from the character.

c. Third Person Limited Point Of View: This is a narrative technique by which the writer describes the action as a single character might see them. The writer sees the events through the eyes of his narrator.

d. Third Person Omniscient: It is the method in which the narrator/ writer reports on what many characters are thinking and feeling.

e. Stream Of Consciousness: It is a narrative technique by which the audience or reader is made to follow the mind or thoughts of the narrator. The narrator here is not regarded as real narrator though. The story is usually not told in the order the events took place or in the order of time. This is because; the human mind we are made to follow by this narrative technique can recall many things at the same time



The term genre means branch of literature. There are three main branches of literature, namely are: Poetry, Drama and Prose.

POETRY: Poetry has been variously defined by different poets. According to one school of thought, it is the expression, in a language, of thoughts and feelings which popped up intuitively. William Wordsworth however defines poetry as the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings recollected in the moment of tranquility. The above definitions imply that poetry is natural, imaginative and emotional expression. Poetry is also defined as “the art which uses words as both speech and songs to reveal the realities that the senses record, the feeling salute the mind perceives and the harping imaginations orders”. . It employs beautiful language in passing across its message. A poem is usually written in verse, stanza and arranged in lines.


Unseen poetry is a piece of a poem, examination candidates might not have seen before the examination. The poem is not among the ones prescribed. Candidates are expected to read and demonstrate their literary appreciation skills by answering questions based on the unseen poem. Students who make good use of this textbook will find this section not only easy but also interesting.


There are four basic types of poem, namely are: Narrative poem, dramatic poem, A closet Drama and lyric.

Narrative poem: tells a story. Epic is an example of narrative poem

Dramatic poem: This is a poem that tells its story through the speech of a character. There are two types of Dramatic poem. A dramatic poem, in which only one character speaks, is termed Monologue.

Closet Drama: A play in a poem form that is designed to be read but not acted.

Lyric: Is a short song-like poem, often expressing strong feelings. We may describe a lyric poem in terms of what it discusses (Subject-Matter) or in terms of its form. Hence we term a poem eulogy if it praises the qualities of someone or something; or elegy if it laments the dead. Other poems classified according to subject-matter are discussed below.

Panegyric poem: It is a poem meant to praise a person or object.

Ode: It is a poem addressed to somebody or something or an idea. It is often more or less a sober reflection on an object or a personage. The following are examples of ode: Ode to the Grecian Urn, by John Keats, Ode on the Morning of Christ’s Nativity-by Milton, Ode to Nightingale, by John Keats e.t.c

Dirge: A poem which expresses grief or mourns the dead. It is shorter and less formal than Elegy. Songs of Sorrow, by Kofi Awoonor is an example of Dirge.

Poems Described According To Forms

Sonnet: It is a poem of 14 lines long with a definite rhyme scheme. There are two types of sonnets. The Shakespearean sonnet and Pertrechan or Italian sonnet


Shakespearean sonnet is also called English sonnet. It is named after William Shakespeare who is a foremost writer of this type of poem. It has four divisions. From the first to the twelfth line, it is divided into three stanzas of four lines each. The last two lines form the fourth divisions.

Pertrechan or Italian sonnet is a poem named after the poet Francesco Pertrach. It is usually divided into two stanzas, viz: The OCTAVE (eight lines) and the SESTET (six lines). The second stanza has the following rhyme scheme: c d e c d e. However note that the rhyme pattern of the sestet is not constant. It may have cde dde etc, as its rhyme scheme. Usually, the octave creates a problem while the sestet resolves or comments on the problem.

Ballad: It is a narrative poem which tells a simple and dramatic story. It is often meant to be sung. A ballad has strong rhythms and rhymes which give it its songlike qualities. The following are features of a ballad:

(i) Themes of physical courage and love

(ii) Events that happen to common people

Every stanza of a Ballad is made up of four lines with the following rhyme - scheme: ab ab, the first and the third lines usually have four stressed syllables while the second and the fourth carry three syllables


Idyll: a short poem that expresses a peaceful and happy scene.


Diction: It is the choice of words of a poet. A good diction passes its message with suitable words

Rhyme: It is the repetition of similar sounds in different words. Rhyme often occurs at the end of lines. E.g.(by / sky). For there to be a perfect rhyme, the consonants preceding the rhyming vowel sounds must be different. E.g. ban /can, corn/ born

Internal Rhyme: If the rhyming words are in the middle of a line of poem, the kind of rhyme thus form is called internal rhyme.

End Rhyme: It is a form of rhyme that occurs at the end of each line

Masculine Rhyme: Rhyme made up of single stressed syllable e.g. Word/work

Feminine Rhyme: Double rhyme (when rhyme consists of two syllables with a stressed syllable followed by unstressed syllable e.g. ending/ pending

Rhyme- scheme: The pattern or sequence of in which words rhyme with each other. It is usually denoted aa, bb, cc, dd, e.t.c.

Alternate Rhyme-Scheme: It occurs when first line of a poem rhymes with the third. The second, with the fourth, the fifth with the seventh e.t.c.

Tone: Tone is the inner voice which sends the feelings of the poet or the poet’s persona to the reader. A tone may be of sorrow, anger, resignation, ridicule, contempt, sarcasm, joyous e.t.c if a student is asked to state the tone of a poem; he is expected to use appropriate word as one of the ones listed above, to describe the tone. The tone of a poem has direct effect on the mood.

Mood: It is the author’s or poet’s state of mind at the time of writing his poem. Put differently, it is the emotional attitude of the poet to his theme.

Rhythm: Is a word derived from a Greek word. It means movement from one part to another part. Sounds are expected to flow in poetry. As we unstressed or stressed word in a line of poem, flow of sound is generated. Briefly put, rhythm is that element which gives a poem its musical quality.

Stanza: It is an Italian word for stopping place. Stanza in a poem is a group of lines considered as one unit. Each stanza contains a single thought or idea. Stanzas are to poem as paragraphs are to a prose. Stanzas are usually separated by spaces. A stanza may be named according to the number of lines it contains.

1. Couplet: a stanza of two lines

2. Tercet: a stanza that has three lines

3. Quatrain: a stanza that contains four lines

4. Cinquain: a five-line poem

5. Sestet: a six-line stanza

6. Heptastich: a seven-line stanza

7. Octave: a stanza of eight lines

Imagery: It is a language that produces pictures in the mind of a reader or a listener. In other words, it is a form of language which calls up picture in the mind.

Imagery appeals to the following senses

1. Visual sense (sight)

2. Aural sense (hearing)

3. Olfactory sense (smell)

4. Gustatory sense (taste)

5. Tactile sense (touch)

6. Thermal sense (heat)

7. Motion


Figures of Speech: These are expressions commonly used by poets in composing poems in order to arouse feelings through evoking images in the mind. Figures of speech include: metaphor, simile, synecdoche, allusion, symbolism hyperbole, meiosis, euphemism and apostrophe.

Most of the examples used in this chapter are drawn from some prescribed poems for SSCE and JAMB candidates.

Meiosis: Also termed understatement, is a deliberate understatement to achieve humour and satirical effect. It is a direct opposite of hyperbole

A. Hyperbole: It is an overstatement. An exaggeration of fact for the purpose of emphasis e.g.

1. His head is bigger than a mountain.

2. All the perfume of Arabia cannot take away her body odour

3. I am so thirsty that I can drink all the water in the Atlantic Ocean

B. Simile: This is a figure of speech used to compare two things which are different in their nature but are alike in having the quality mentioned. It usually uses ‘as’ ‘like’ in comparing things. E.g.

1. He is as strong as a lion

2. We know the knife scars serrating down your back and front like beak of the sword fish

3. The Nile and Nyaza lay like two twins

4. Clothes wave like tattered flags

It should be noted that it is not simile when the comparison is between two similar things. For example, the following is not simile; my car is like your car.

C. Metaphor: it is a direct comparison between two unlike things. This figure of speech is like simile. The difference is that while simile says something is like something or as something, metaphor says something is another thing. We can also define metaphor as the transfer of attributes (qualities) of one object to another. ‘It is a compressed simile. E.g.

1. He is a palm tree

2. Ojo is a lion

3. I am the squirrel teeth, cracked the riddle of the palm

4. Thou’rt slave to fate

5. The pelting march

6. My vegetable love

Metaphor has two elements: The tenor and the vehicle.

Tenor: It is the idea being expressed

Vehicle: It is the medium or image employed in expressing the idea e.g in example (2) above lion is the vehicle while strength of the of the lion is the tenor (idea expressed)

D. Personification: It is a figure of speech that gives qualities of animate objects (living things) to inanimate objects (non-living things). We can also define personification as the giving of human qualities to non-human beings.

When we speak of things like the sun, night, moon, fish or stars as doing or saying things just as we talk of human beings we are giving human qualities to them. Examples:

1. The sun smiles on the earth. The sun is smiling. But it is not a human being that can smile thus we give it the human quality of smile.

2. The wind is friendly tonight

3. Death knocks at his door.

4. Clouds come hurrying with the wind

5. Pregnant clouds ride stately on its back

6. The wind whistles by

7. Jagged blinding flashes, rumble tremble and crack

8. Thus though we cannot make our sun

Stand still, yet we will make him run

E. Euphemism

It is a figure of speech by which we use a mild or indirect expression to avoid the direct statement of harsh or unpleasant truth.


1. The man passed away (to mean the man died)

2. Jacob got Okiemute laid

3. Each day a weary pony dropped

4. Each afternoon a human skeleton collapsed

F. Apostrophe

It is a figure of speech by which someone, abstract object or non-living thing is addressed directly as if it could hear or it were present even though it is

absent. It is simply described as direct address to inanimate object.

The speaker talks to an imaginary second person who is not present or

cannot hear, directly.


1. Death be not proud-(john Donne)

2. Oh JAMB why do you treat me like this!

G. Synecdoche

It is a figure of speech by which we use part to refer to a whole. In other words a part is used to represent a whole or a whole make to stand for a part.


1. All hands on deck

2. He is a mender of soles

3. He has many mouths to feed

4. We need ten hands

5. Okotete has several fingers

N.B: all hands in example one is used to mean human beings. Hands are part of human being

Example2; soles are part of shoes hence used to refer to shoes

Example 3.mouths refer to people since mouth is part of human beings

Example 4.hands here refer to workers

Example5-fingers refer to children

F. Allusion

It is a reference to a popular event in the past or an object bearing similarity to what is being described. It mentions another person or topic in an indirect manner. There are two types of allusions; biblical allusion and literary allusion.

Biblical allusion is a reference to events in the bible. While literary allusion is a reference to other literature books.


A Daniel comes to judgment (The Merchant of Venice, William Shakespeare). The above statement is used by Shylock to refer to the story of Daniel in the bible. In that story, Daniel who acted as a judge over the case of a woman accused of adultery, was able to give the right verdict being a wise man

1. John is a prodigal son- prodigal son here refers to the parable of prodigal son by Jesus in the bible.

2. Our relationship is that of Hut-Tutsi-this refers to hostile relations between Hut and Tutsi tribes, both in Rwanda, which culminated in genocide.

H. Symbolism

It is a figure of speech that makes use of symbols to represent ideas. The use of an object to suggest a meaning not clearly connected to that object. E.g.

Ekpo bore his cross patiently-in this example cross is a symbol of suffering.

In her womb from east to west

Big volcanoes cough and blink

Belching streams of liquid fuel

N.B: womb in the first line of the poem symbolizes the earth while volcanoes represent oil wells

I. Contrast

It is a device by which one object or idea is placed in opposition to another to highlight the contrasted idea. It is usually for the purpose of emphasis.

Figures of Thought: These are also literary devices employed by mostly poets to convey their messages in a more aesthetic form. By surprising the reader at first reading, figures of thought stimulate the reader’s thinking ability. They include, oxymoron, metonymy and paradox

A. Metonymy

It is a literary device by which we refer to something by another thing closely associated with it.


1. My boss employs anything in skirt. Here skirt is used to represent girls since it is only girls that wear skirt.

2. Crown gives up the ghost. Crown in this example is used to mean king since it is closely associated with kings.

3. The pen is mightier than the sword. Here the pen refers to intellectuals while the sword represents violent people.

B. Oxymoron

It is a literary device which places side by side opposite qualities, often than not for the purpose of sharp emphasis. It is also described as the juxtaposition of two apparently contradictory ideas which modify each other in a sentence.


1. Loving hatred-Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare

2. I have a bitter sweet experience

3. He maintained eloquent silence during the seminar

4. Pregnant virgin

5. An open secret

C. Paradox

It is a statement that appears impossible, absurd or self-contradictory but contains much wisdom and it is true.


1. The child is the father of the man. This simply means that the child who is now being cared for and provided for by the father, will one day grow up, and when his father is old and cannot provide for himself the child would provide for him like a father.

2. More haste less speed. Sometimes we hurry to get certain things done. But in the process we omit or forget things that will make us start all over again. In such a situation our haste has only slowed down our speed at completing the required assignment.

3. The more you look the less you see.

4. Death, thou shall die

D Antithesis: Literary device in which ideas are contrasted by the use of diametrically opposed statements. In other words, it is the placing side by side of opposite or contrasting statements. Examples;

Prosperity doth best discover vice

But adversity doth best discover virtue.


Figures of Sound

These are expressions employed to give sound effect to a piece of literary work.

A. Alliteration

It is the repetition of similar consonant sounds at the beginning of words in a line of poetry. Consonants sounds include: b, p, b, d, f, g, h, j k, l, t, w, m, n, s, q, v, z etc

Examples of alliteration

1. Motherly moon

2. Sitting on stool outside mud hut

3. Let life lead

4. Bleeding blood

5. Singing song of solemn companionship

B. Assonance


It is the repetition of two or more similar vowel sounds in a line of poem. E.g.

1. Coffee to keep the PS awake on return journey

2. Green dreams

C. Consonance: It refers to the repetition of consonant sounds in a line of poetry in the middle or the end of words E.g.

D. Repetition

It is a rhetorical device that repeats something for the purpose of emphasis or clarity.


Man has ceased to be man

Man has become beast

Man has become prey

(Nightfall in SOWETO, Oswald Mtshali M.)

In this poem man and has are repeated.

E. Onomatopoeia

It refers to words whose sound suggests their meanings. Examples;

1. The vehicle zoomed past

2. Catastrophic crisis

3. A Dominion dominated by deceit is doomed



Drama is one of the three genres of literature. It is defined as a work of art acted on the stage before an audience. We can also define drama as the recreation of life on the stage. A Greek philosopher called Aristotle also defines drama as “imitated human action”. This definition implies that what is acted on stage as drama, copies actual life situations.

Play is often mistaken for drama. A play cannot be termed a drama until it is produced on stage before an audience. A play is therefore defined as a piece of writing designed for the stage.

Professor J.M. Manly listed three essential elements in drama. They are:

a. A Story (b) Told in action (c) By actors who impersonate the characters of the story. We appreciate the story, the plot and the themes of a drama through the actions and conversations of the characters.


Comedy: It is a kind of drama which amuses and ends happily. It strives to provoke laughter e.g. the following are types of comedy. TheTempest, written by William Shakespeare.

Comedy of manners: It ridicules people who violate the social tradition and order of the society. Every society at any given time, has laid down pattern of behaviour that people have to abide to. Comedy of manners deals with the traditions, relations and intrigues of people in a given society. Examples

(a) Love’s Labour’s Last and (b) Much Ado About Nothing, both by William Shakespeare

Romantic Comedy: It is a kind of comedy which deals with love affairs that involve a beautiful and idealized central female character who is sometimes disguised as a man. This love affair is usually rough but all difficulties are overcome in the end and it ends happily. It was practiced by Shakespeare and some of his contemporaries during Elizabethan’s period. Examples:

Midsummer Night’s Dream, William Shakespeare.

Satiric Comedy: A comedy that ridicules philosophical doctrines or political policies, or attacks the disorder of society by ridiculing people who violate the standards of manners or morals.

Tragedy: It is a form of drama which end is usually sad. The leading character or the character we admire most in a tragedy ends tragically, sorrowfully, or gets involved in a situation that arouses sympathy. According to Aristotle, the purpose of tragedy is to arouse feelings of pity and fear, as a result, produces in the audience a catharsis

Modern tragedy is derived from Greek and medieval tragedy. The Greek tragedy originated from rituals of life and death. Medieval tragedy on the other hand, originated from the representation of the life, death and resurrection of Christ Jesus.

Examples of Tragedy

1. The gods are not to Blame, Ola Rotimi

2. Julius Ceasar, William Shakespeare

3. Macbeth, William Shakespeare

4. Hamlet, William Shakespeare

5. Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare

Features of Tragedy

1. A protagonist or hero who commands respect in the society

2. A hero who undertakes an action of a certain size or seriousness

3. Through the action of the protagonist he falls into trouble or faced a physical suffering.

Tragic-Comedy: This is a drama /play which have both qualities of a tragedy or comedy. It may begin with a tragic plot but ends happily. Its action appears to be leading to a catastrophe until an unexpected turn of events, usually in the form of abrupt happy end changes everything.

Farce: A humorous play in which the characters make silly mistakes meant to make people laugh. Its action and events deviate from reality.

Melodrama: A play that is full of exciting sensational actions or events and in which the characters and emotions appear too exaggerated to be real.


They include story, plot, characters, act, scene, Dialogue, settings, stage, Audience, Catastrophe, Denouncement and comic relief. (Setting, plot, story, characters have been discussed under elements of literature)

Stage: A platform usually in theatre, where actors and actresses, dancers perform. A stage is otherwise described as the physical representation of the world of the play.

Audience: A group of people watching a performance of a play on stage. Drama is an audio-visual literary work. The audience sees and hears the dialogue of the actors who translate a play to drama on the stage. The audience serves as the element of measuring the success or failure of the play.

Dialogue: This means conversation between the characters or actors and actresses in a play or drama. Dialogue is also found in other literary works like poetry and prose. It has the following stylistic values:

(a) It advances the action in a given way and is not used as mere ornamentations

(b) It reflects the social position, character and special interest of the speakers. It changes expressions and tone according to the speaker’s nationalities, dialect, occupations and social standards.

(c) Although it is not a word for word record of what was actually said in real life, it gives the impression of naturalness.

(d) It does not only give the interplay of ideas and personalities among the characters speaking, but also provides a conversational give-and-take as opposed to series or remarks of alternating speakers.

(e) It varies in diction, phrasing, and rhythm e.t.c

Before 1558, the tradition was: nobles and elevated characters speak in Blank verse and high rhetoric while minor characters (underlings) speak in prose firm.

Act: It is a major division in the action of play just as the novel has chapters so also a play is divided into ACTS. This division was introduced by dramatist of the Elizabeth period. These Elizabethan dramatists imitated a Roman playwright, by dividing the actions into five acts.

However, during the 1900’s many writers imitated Chekhov by structuring plays in four acts. Whereas in the 1900’s some plays were written in three acts.

Scenes: Sir Edmond Chambers describes scenes as a continuous section of action in an unchanged locality. Simply put, a scene is a logical unit into which an act is divided. In today’s plays, a scene usually consists of units of actions in which there is no change of place or break in the continuity of time.

In constructing a scene, climatic arrangement is the most important principle. A scene may also be that of relief, or dialogue scene, battle scene, court scene, and monologue scene e.t.c

Comic Relief: It is a humorous scene or funny incident or speech in a serious drama. In a tragedy such humorous scenes are usually introduced to provide relief from emotional intensity. This can as well, increase the seriousness of the story.

Catastrophe and Denouement: This refers to the turning point in the life or actions of the protagonist in an unfolding play. This turning point may result in success or failure for the protagonist. The misery is solved or the misunderstanding is cleared away at this point in the play. If the play is a tragedy, this turning point is termed catastrophe. But in both tragedy and comedy, this change of event is commonly referred to as Denouement. Denouement is also called Resolution.

Denouement may involve reversal (peripety, According to Aristotle) in the hero’s fortunes. The reversal may be to the protagonist’s failure or destruction as we have in tragedy.



This is the third genre of literature. Prose is written in the ordinary spoken or written language of man. The message of the prose is often conveyed without acting. A prose work may be fiction or non-fiction.

Fiction; is an imaginary story created or invented by a writer. E.g., The Joys of Motherhood. .

Non-fiction; a true-life story. Historical novel is an example of non-fiction.

. Autobiography; It is non-fictional prose written by somebody about himself. Simply put, it is the life history of a person written by the person himself. For example if Mary writes a novel that tells the story of her life, such a story is called autobiography. African Child written by Camara Laye and Second Class Citizen by Buchi Emecheta are examples of autobiography.

Biography; This is the life story of somebody written by another person. For example if Efe writes the story of Okoro’s life such a story is Biography. This type of story may be written while the person is alive or dead.


Unseen prose refers to a passage usually adapted from a prose work which is not among the prescribed Prose works. This section in the SSCE Literature Paper I requires students to answer some questions based on the passage. For a candidate to do well in this section he needs basic literary appreciation skills which are discussed in this textbook.


1. Novelette: It is generally known as a narrative, longer than a short story but shorter than a novel, especially a romantic novel which is considered to be badly written.

2. Short Story: It is a narrative of event or many related events, which is less complex than novel.

3. Anecdote: It is a short humorous or interesting story about a real person or event. It can show a single aspect of personal life or event. E.g.

There was a man called Tony who went to his friend’s party. When it was dancing time, Tony like other people went to the middle of the arena to dance. He noticed something as he was dancing: the people behind him applauded and hailed him tumultuously, while those at his front just watched in silence. He thought that his backside was doing more wonders than his front-side. He decided to turn his backside in every direction so that he could gain the applause of all, which he enjoyed very much. By the end of the party almost everybody had seen his backside.

He decided to dance before a large mirror when he got home from the party to know for himself how wonderfully he looked behind when dancing. It was then he saw in the mirror that his trousers was torn behind. And since he had gone to the party without underwear, his private part was in full view. It swung helplessly while he danced and that was the cause of the uproar he had mistaken for applause.

4. Novel: It is a long narrative fiction that has a more complex plot than a short story. It can also be described as an ‘invented prose narrative of great length and a certain complexity that deals imaginatively with human experience usually through a connected sequence of events involving a group of persons in a specific setting’. The novel shows life through plot, story, characters, conflict and realism. The plot of a short story or novelette is simple and straight forward. While that of a novel is complex and always include sub-plots.

Types of Novel

1. Picaresque

2. Epistolary

3. Gothic

4. Romantic

5. Realist

6. Historical

7. Psychological Novel

8. Political novel

9. Detective novel

10. Sociological Novel

11. Novel of character

12. Novel of manners

1. Picaresque Novel: It deals with a sequence of adventures of a rogue or outcast. It was common between 17th and early 18th centuries. It is usually exciting and lusty.

2. Novel of manners: It deals with problems of personal resolution resulting from the complex restrictions of highly formalized ‘codes’ of etiquette in good society.

3. Sentimental Novel: A form of novel which emphasizes the importance of building and nurturing emotionality, and a sentimental understanding of simple ways of life; the beauties of nature and cordiality(friendship) between people of refined sensibilities”

4. Gothic Novel: A kind of novel common in the 18th centuries. It described romantic adventures in frightening or mysterious environments.

The first gothic novel was published in 1764 by Horace Walpole. The mystery of Udolpho, by Ann Redeliffe is another example.

5. Historical Novel: It is a novel that deals with past events. In historical novels, some notable figures in the past are brought to life fictionally and characters are invented to help reader understand how past events affected people.

6. Sociological novel: It deals with the state and the impact of social factors on the characters in a certain society. In this way we get to understand the reason behind character’s behavior in the society. Sociological novel offer a thesis and supports it as an answer to a social problem.

7. Detective Novel: It is a form of novel in which a crime, usually crime of murder, is committed and the criminal or perpetrators are unknown until a detective unravels the mystery behind the crime. Most of James Hardley Chase novels fall under this category.

8. Psychological novel: It stresses the inner life of characters. A psychological novelist focuses on the inner life of the character, assesses his motives and explores such psychological characteristics which led to external actions.

9. Novel of character: It stresses the creation and building of character instead of unity of plot, structure and exciting story.

10. Novel of incident: A type of novel in which action in almost unrelated episodes dominate while characters and plot are subordinate. There is more emphasis on thrilling incident than characterization or sustained curiosity. Robinson Crusoe, written by Daniel Defoe is a good example.


Elements of Novel

1. Setting

2. Character

3. Story

4. Realism



Some terms used in the language of literary criticism and techniques employed in literary works are discussed in this chapter. Understanding them will be of great help to senior school certificate Examination and JAMB candidates.


A. Suspension of disbelief: This is a dramatic convention which demands that we pretend that the people and event we see in a drama are real. In the performance of a play, actors imitate the characters in the play. For example, when your school decides to act Wedlock of the gods or stage Women of Owu, or our Husband has gone Mad Again, your classmates we act as the characters in the story. While the drama unfolds, you believe that your classmate who is playing the role of Uloko or Oguoma is actually Oguoma or Uloko.

In other words, you suspend disbelieving that your classmate is not the characters mentioned. Suspension of disbelieving helps audience to get the mental and emotional appeals the drama puts forward

B. Soliloquy: It refers to a speech made by a character to himself in a play. It occurs when a character says aloud his thoughts to the hearing of the audience i.e. when a character is thinking aloud. It is aimed at revealing to the audience what is going on in the mind of the character.


Hamlet soliloquizes as follows in the play; Hamlet, written by Shakespeare William.

To be, or not to be- that is the question whether it’s nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles

And by opposing end them?-to die- to sleep-

No more; and by a sleep to say we end

The heart ache and the thousand natural shocks

That flesh is heir to; is a consummation

Devoutly to be wished. Top die-to sleep

To sleep! Perchance to dream.

C. Interior Monologue or Aside: This is a convention in which a character talks to himself to the hearing of the audience. The other characters are to pretend they do not hear even though they hear what the character is saying to himself. The audience also suspends their disbelief that the audiences do not hear.

D. Unity of Time: It is a dramatic concept that demands that the time in a play should be limited to specific number of hours. It could be 12 hours or even more. That is to say that a play should not contain events that happened over a long period of time. But some playwrights do not abide by this idea.

E. Unity of Action: It is most important of the three. Originally, this idea was advanced by Aristotle. It is however, later expanded to include unities of time and place. Aristotle holds the view that all the actions in a play should have unity. Drama, he believes, is an imitation of complete action of a given size. A whole should have beginning, middle and the end with a causal relationship in the aspects of the play so that if an aspect is detached, the actions become disjointed. That is to say, a plot of an action should be naturally conceived to derive all its part from a common action that unifies them. Put differently, all the plots in a play should be properly connected to a major one

F. Unity of Place: It is an idea that all the actions in a play should take place in one location. Put differently, that all the actions in a play should be united in a certain city or town or locality. A play is not supposed to unite actions that took place in far locations. Shakespeare does not abide by the rule.

v Didactic Literature: It is a literary work meant to teach moral, branch of theoretical, religious or practical knowledge various forms of satire are didactic.

v Satire: It is a literary work which lampoons human follies and frailties or vices as well as institutions with a view to correcting them.

v Allegory: Imaginary narratives in which human beings and events have a symbolic meaning (i.e. represent ideas such as justice or freedom). The narrative may talk about something but has another thing in focus.

v Epistolary: It is a novel written in the form of letter

v Fable: A short story used to illustrate moral lessons in which animals talk and act like human beings

v Foreshadowing: It is sometimes referred to as unconscious prophesy. A character may say something which gives clue about a future event casually, or an event which foretells what would happen later in the literary work or may take place. When this occurs, we call it foreshadowing.

v Euphony: It is the pleasantness of sound.

v Atmosphere: this is the overall emotional feeling that the details a writer uses create. An atmosphere can be described as sad, frightening or mysterious etc. A writer creates atmosphere by the way he describes his settings, characters and events. The writer chooses his words carefully so that the readers or audience will be affected by his writing in the way he wants them to be affected. For example, a writer who wants to stir the feeling of terror in a reader may use the details below:

It was midnight. Joan moved on the bed suddenly as if startled. Her room was pitch black. Sinister weeping of an owl was paving the way for the booming of gun by her window.

v Cacophony: Harshness or unpleasantness of sound

v Diction: It simply means choice of words of a poet or choice of words of other literary writer.

v Pun: Play on words that have more than one meaning. For example, bank (of a river), bank (where one saves money), bark (noise makes by a dog), bark (cover of a tree). A writer may play on the meanings of these words. When such occur, we describe it as pun.

vEpic: It is a long narrative poem.

v Characterization: It refers to the creation of characters in a literary work by giving blood and flesh to fictitious people. The writer is the creator of his characters. He kills them if he wants them to die. He defends them if he wants them to be protected. He makes them behave the way he wants them to behave. Hence a young girl in novel can woo a young man in a novel and even sustain his love without reservation even though if it may not be possible in real life.

Methods of characterization: (a) explicit method/telling method and (b) dramatic/ action method. By the explicit method, the writer makes us know a character via the authors description, this description include what the character says about himself and other characters says about him

The dramatic method: We get to know the character through what he does or how he handles things and what he says. Here there is no direct exposition by the author.

Types of Characters

1. Round Characters—they are like real human beings. They are complex, showing many aspects to their personality. They change and grow as the story unfolds.

2. Flat Characters—they have only one side and usually show a single personality quality. They remain the same throughout the story.

Elements of Character: to write a note on or analyse a character, the following elements should be considered:

1. Appearance of the character- what does the character look like? What kind of clothes does the character normally wear? What do the above things say about the character?

2. Background of the Character-describe where the character grows up. Talk about the character’s experiences. Talk about the character’s education and the occupation of the character. Mention the hobbies of the character.

3. Personality- is the character shy or outgoing? Is he emotional or rational? Is he caring or cold? Honest or dishonest? A leader or follower

4. Motivation- mention what makes the character act as he acts, what he likes and what he hates as well as his wishes, dreams, goals, desires, dreams and needs

5. Relationship-describe how the character is related to other characters in the story; how he interacts with these relatives, what resulted from these interactions.

6. Conflict-say whether the character is involved in any conflict, mention the kind of conflict (is it conflict within him or conflict between him and other characters?)

7. Type of Character-state whether the character changes in the course of the story; whether he learns and grows or just remains the same throughout the narration

v Flashback: It is a technique used to recall events that happen before the point at which the work begins or events that occurred earlier. This technique is used in the Joys of Motherhood. The first chapter tells about Nnu Ego running to commit suicide and how she is prevented from taking her life. In chapter two the writer continues to recall all the past events for us to understand what led to the actions in chapter one.

Flashback is of two types: Narrative flashback and dramatic flashback. A narrative flashback is that type that relates the events as a story. While the dramatic flashback is acted. It is this form that is employed in drama.

v Protagonist: It refers to the leading character in a prose work or drama. It is a word derived from a Greek word, AGON

v Antagonist: The chief character who opposes the leading character, e.g. in the Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare, Shylock is the antagonist.

v Suspense: It is a technique used by a writer to arouse curiosity in the reader. This he may do by mentioning an important event that occurred without stating its cause. He gradually reveals what led to the event as the work unfolds. Suspense is usually used to sustain the interest of the reader.

v Prompter: Somebody who stays behind a scene to remind actors who forget their lines.

v Playwright: Somebody who writes play

v Dramatist: A person who writes a play and takes part in the action.

v Novelist: One who writes a novel.

v Poet: A person who writes a poem

v Poetic licence: It is the freedom a poet has to enable him use words out of their ordinary usage in order to achieve special effect

v Poetic Justice: Comeuppance on character in a literary work is called poetic justice.

v Narrator: The person who explains what is happening in a work of literature.

v Motif: A dominant or repeated idea in a work of art. It is also defined as the formula idea or pattern which forms the main base on which a work of literature is made or developed.

v Parody: A poem meant to amuse which copies the style, characters and content of a know poet or writer to mock him.

v Pathos: A quality which arouses feeling of pity, sorrow and sympathy from audience

v Actor: A male acting in the performance of a play E.g. Pete Edochie (Okonkwo) is a popular Nig actor.

v Actress: A female who acts in drama. Example: Genevieve Nnaji is a popular Nigerian actress.

v Anthology: A book containing collection of poems written by different poets.

v Bathos: If is a literary device in which word or ideas are arranged in descending order of importance, form the sub line to the ridiculous. E.g. she was once managing director, later his wife and now his house help.

v Anti – Climax: Otherwise termed bathos. It is the opposite of climax. It is the arrangement of event or ideas in descending order, i.e. from highest to lowest, Example: Okoh lost his one million Naira, his wallet and his handkerchief. Ojo lost his wife, his building and motorcycle.

v Burlesque: It is a poem that ridicules ideas or objects.

v Consume irony: It is also called irony of fate. It occurs in a literary work in which god or divine force is presented as if deliberately dominating the affair of the chief character, giving him false hopes only to frustrate and humiliate him at the end.

v Anthonomesia: A literary device that employs the name of a well known person or place to represent some quality in a similar person, place, event or object E.g.

(1) Lagos is the New York of Africa (2) wole Soyinka is the William Shakespeare of Africa.

v Caricature: It is the ridiculous imitation of one person of another person’s manner and character.

v Enjambment: It is also referred to as run-on-line. Enjambment occurs

When ideas or thought unit run from one line of a poem into another without pause. The line flows on and on into the one following it.

v Mime: It is a drama performed without speaking. The actors use only gestures and gesticulations in acting the play.

v Malapropism: It is the wrong use of a word which is far from the meaning of what you want even though the word sounds like the correct one. It simply means the inappropriate use of words. E.g. somebody may want to say Arsenal conceded a goal but say conceived because he does not know the difference between them since they sound alike.

v Inversion: It is the technique use in turning a sentence upside down against the normal grammatical order of the clause, phrase or sentence. E.g. For man’s salvation Jesus died.

v Lineation: It is the arrangement of poem in lines

v Catharsis: It is a term used to describe the purgation of emotion. It is otherwise described as transfer of feeling from actors to the audience in a play performance

v Cast: A group of people who represent character on a stage performance.

v Epigram: A shot witty poem. Example

A Christian is a man.

Who goes to church on Sunday to confess the sins he commuted on Saturday which he would continue on Monday

v Prologue: It is defined as short speech at the beginning of a literary work. It also means introductory part of work of literature

v Meiosis: A figure of contrast that reduces somebody or an object to an inconsequential size or status even though the person or object is actually bigger than what is suggested. This is used mainly for the sake of comic irony. E.g. Thompson is but an eye of Marcus.

v Exposition: It is the act of explaining and making clear the background of event or actions that will occur in advance so as to capture the audience or reader’s attention.

v Anagnorisis: It is an element of tragedy. A point at which a tragic hero discovered for the first time, the trap set for him. He is usually helpless against his fate at this point, hence he cannot retrace his steps Example: The point at which Macbeth discovers that Macduff was not born of a woman.(Macbeth, William Shakespeare). The three witches had earlier assured him that no man born of a woman could kill him thus when he realized that Macduff was not born of a woman, it dawned on him that he could be killed by him yet it was two late for him to retrace his steps.

v Tragic Flaw: It is also called harmatia. It the weakness or fault in hero which, exploited by forces against him, often causes his down -fall

v Interlude: It refers to an interval or breaks between two parts of a drama or play

v Epilogue: It is a short speech at the end of a literary work.

v Dues ex Machina: It is the sudden turn of event in a literary work.

v Clown: A character who dresses in a funny manner and tries to amuse people by his jokes, actions and tricks.

v Climax: It is the peak or highest point in a work of art where feelings are most intense. It also means the arrangement of ideas or events in ascending order. E.g. I came, I saw, I conquered- Shakespeare William.

* Theatre: It is the arena, structure or a space where play are performed.

* Prop: It refers to the stage property.

* Costume: It means the clothes or style of dress actors and actresses wear on stage.

* Pastoral poem: A poem about village or rural life.

* Cloak Room: A room where in which stage property are kept.

* Stage manager: A person who supervises and provides general instructions on the production or performance of a play.

* Aphorism: A brief saying that is true or full of wisdom

* Comedian: A person who acts in comedies or somebody who tells jokes to entertain people. A female comedian is termed a comedienne

* Directions: This means all the information or instructions provided by a writer of a play about the settings and actions of the characters in a play. These instructions are usually written in italics and brackets. The directions in a play tell us whether a character smiles or smiles sardonically or even cry e.t.c.

* Stage Directions: The instructions telling the actors or performers what to do. Stage Direction is usually provided by stage Director.

* Apparent Interrogation: It is similar to rhetorical question. It means a question which does not need answer but has literary effect. E.g. “Who disputes that hard-work leads to success?”

* Foil: A character that contrasts with the virtues of another character and as such emphasizes the qualities of the other character.

* Eponym or Eponymous Character: The character mentioned in the title of a literary work. E.g. Romeo and Juliet are eponymous characters of the great tragedy by William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet. Hamlet is also an eponymous name used in Hamlet by Shakespeare.

* Autobiography: It is the life history of a person written by himself. Biography which is mistaken for Autobiography means the life history of another person written by another person. For instance, if Juliet writes the life history of Henry, such a book written by Juliet is called biography.

* Caesura: A pause near the middle of a line of poetry. It is introduced by a punctuation mark

* Producer: Somebody who is in charge of the financial and practical responsibilities of making a film/movie or a play.

* Prolepsis: It refers to mentioning future action in a way that seemed that the action had been performed or had taken place E.g. ‘I eat little and I am satisfied’

* Tragedian: Is one who acts a tragedy. Tragedienne is a female equivalent of tragedian

* Panegyric: A poem that praises and extols somebody’s qualities (Virtues)

* Epyllion: A narrative poem that is shorter than epic.

* Epithalamion: A poem written in celebration of marriage.

* Prothalamion: A poem in celebration of an independent marriage.

* Prosody: It is the patterns of sounds and rhythms in poetry. It is also the study of the pattern in which poetry is written (versification)

* Exemplum: It is a short story highlighting morals

* Sarcasm: The use of words that are opposite of what you mean with the intentions to hurt or to be unpleasant to somebody or to make fun of them


(i) James is such a very good student that all his beautiful classmates are afraid to stay alone with him in the class.

(ii) The commissioner has embarked on noble capacity building which include the buying of ‘Okada’ for law graduates

* Symbol – An object, a sign or person used to represent another E.g. Candle, water (to represent life), cross (to represent suffering) e.t.c. whereas symbolism is the use of symbol to represent somebody, something or a place or an idea.

* Nostos: A poem whose a subject-matter describes return journey.

* Synopsis: A brief summary of major events in a story or play.

* Epitaph: An inscription or words written on a dead person’s gravestone or tomb.

* Epithet: It is an adjective or phrase used to describe a person or an object either to praise or criticize.

* Transferred Epithet: An epithet transferred from what it rightly belongs to another it does not belong. Examples: He lied all night on a sleepless pillow (Sleepless which belongs to he, is transferred to pillow (2) Margaret had a happy Easter holiday (here happy which belongs to Margaret is transferred to Easter holiday)

* Prosiast: somebody who writes a prose.

* Roman a clef: A novel based on real events and people with pseudonyms.

* Saga Novel: A prose work that explores the story of a family or social group over successive generations.

* Travesty: A work of literary which imitates another literary work in a ridiculous manner to provoke laughter

* Opera: It is a play or drama in which words or most of the words are meant to be sung.

* Soap Opera: A type of opera that tells a story of the lives, and problems of a group of people. It is usually broadcast on the television from time to time.

* Anthimeria: It refers to the use of another part of speech in place of another. For example an adjective may be used in place of another part of speech like verb. Or verb used as noun.

e.g.1. “Gift him with a novel for Valentine “in this example gift, a noun is used in place of verb.

2. “He worked his did” here did is used as a noon.

* Beggars Opera: a kind of opera which mocks the futility and vanity of consumption of lace materials.

* Realism: A style that depicts persons or objects in Literature as they are in real life. It also means the quality of resembling real life.

* Verisimilitude: this is similar to realism. It is the quality of appearing to be real or true. A novel that lacks verisimilitude is termed Romance.

*Travelogue: it is a literary work depicting a person’s travel experiences.

Curtain Raiser: short play staged before the main action in a theatre.

Hero: A main male character in the work of art.

Heroine: The Female equivalent of a hero

Tragic Hero: the chief character in a work of Art whose weakness contributed to his downfall

Anti-Hero: The main character in a story who does not possess the qualities of a typical hero. He is either unpleasant or more like an ordinary person.


1. A definition that limits Literature to writings negates---

(a). Literature of Nigeria (b). literature of pre-literates societies(c). Literature of Africa (d). Literature of societies.

2. Literature is derived from a Latin word---

­a. littera b.litra c.liffera d.little

3. According to Professor Egudu, Literature is--- a. medium of expression b. manner of expression c. mode or method of expression d. idea of expression

4. Literature is a mimetic art means --- a. Literature imitates life b. Literature is an important Subject c. Literature is Fine Art d. literature is an Art.

5. The three genres of Literature are --- a. prose, poem and drama b. play, prose and poetry c. drama novel and poetry d. drama, poetry and prose

6. Drama is work of art meant for --- A. the theatre B. stage C. home D. video

7. As listed by Professor J. M. Manley the following are elements of drama---

A. story, told in action and by actors who impersonate the characters of the story B. drama poetry and play C. Plot, conflict and setting D. comic relief, anaphora and cacophony

8. According to Aristotle Tragedy is meant to arouse the feelings of --- A shame and fear B. Fear and pity C. Pain and anger D. love and fear

9. A prose work is usually divided into---

A. Acts B. scenes C. chapters D. stages

10. The following are elements of poetry except---- A. Stages B. blank verse C. tunes D. conflict

11. The central idea of a literary work is ---

A. its theme B. its idea C. its subject-matter D. its discussion

12. The ability to understand, enjoy and evaluate a given literary work is termed ----

A. literature understanding B. understanding literature C. Literary appreciation D. literature knowledge

13. The four elements of literature include---

A. characters and setting B. characters and theme C. characters and point of view D. characters and people

14. Pleasantness of sounds in poetry is termed---- A. cacophony B. euphony C. Anaphora D. Rhymes

Unseen Poetry

Whenever Richard went down town

We people on the pavement looked at him

He was a gentleman from sole to crown

Clean favoured and imperially slim

And he was always quietly arrayed

And he was always human when he talked

But still he fluttered pulses when he said

Good morning; and he glittered when he walked

And he was rich-yes richer than a king

And admirably schooled in every grace

In time, we thought he was everything

To make us wish that we were in his place

So on we worked and waited for the light

And went without the meat, and cursed the bread

And Richard Cory one calm summer night

Went home and put bullet through his head

15. The above poem is written in---

A quatrains B. two good stages C. four stages D. scenes

16. The rhyme-scheme of stage one of the poems is …..

A.abab B. acbd C.aabb D. abda

17. According to the poem, Richard Cory---

A. put a bullet into his head B.commits crime C. commits suicide D. dies

18. We can understand from the poem that from his head to his sole of his feet Richard Cory is ---

A. radical man B. troublesome fellow C. talkative D. a gentleman

19. The themes of this poem include –

A, all that glitters is gold B. all that glitters is not gold C. somebody dies D. Richard Cory, walking down the street

20. The last stanza of the poem has the mood of---

A. disturbance B. happiness C. disillusionment D. resignation

21. A literary work in which action and characters represent ideas is A. an allusion B. an epigram C. an allegory D. an innuendo

22. ‘‘Peter’s pretty partner paid the bills’’ is an example of A. alliteration B. rhyme C. satire D. digression

23. ‘‘O happy torment’’ is an example of A. oxymoron B. synecdoche C. innuendo D. simile

24. A question which does not require an answer is A. discourse B. rhetorical C. ironic D. flashback

25. A literary work written in form of a letter is A. creative B. romantic C. tautological D. epistolary

26. The lawyer addressed the bench” illustrates A. metonymy B. alliteration C. simile D. oxymoron

27. The concluding part of a play where the conflict is resolved is the A. resolution B .enjambment C. denouement D. climax

28. Pick the odd item out of the underlisted A. ode B. elegy C. sonnet D. simile

29. ‘‘pregnant clouds” is an example of A. cliché B. litotes C. metaphor D. synecdoche

30. A writer’s choice of words is his A. diction B. Mood C. tone D. setting

31. The act of creating fictional personages constitutes A. point of view B. characterization C. narrative technique D. symbolism

32. Dream is meant to A. teach manner only B. criticize C. educate and entertain D. be read and acted only

33. A piece of writing which teaches morals is A. serious B. didactic C. playful D. analytical

34. A poem of fourteen lines is A. an elegy B. a dirge C. a sonnet D an ode

35. A piece of writing or speech at the beginning of a work of art is the A. prologue B. dialogue C. monologue D. epilogue

Read the poem and answer question

At the onset of the rain

The drought-stricken land

Suck up the wetness

And the gates to the filed

Are flung widely open

It is the signal for joyous toiling

At various time of the dayS

The hard and erect hoe

Would thrust and dig deep

Into the receiving wet soil.

Seed in different quantities

Seed of varying potency

Are broadcasted in layers

Into the womb of the earth

With tine and much labour

The seed now transformed

Blossoms and grows into new life!

36. The subject matter of the entreat is A. harvesting B. rain C. time D. farming

37. The dominant device used in the extract is A. metaphor B. paradox C. symbolism D. simile

38. ‘‘The hard and erect hoe” connotes A. uprooting of weeds B. the sowing of seeds C. digging of the soil D. farming implements

39. ‘‘Joyous toiling” is an example of A. onomatopoeia B. oxymoron C. irony D. metaphor

40. The last line of the extract suggests the A. growth of seed B. birth of child C. harvesting of fruits D. flourishing of flowers

It is here,….., thou art slain;

No medicine in the world can do thee good;

In thee there is not half an hour of life;

The treacherous instrument is in thy hand,

Unabated and envenom’d: the foul practice

Hath turn’d itself on me; lo, here I lie,

(Act 5, scene Two, lines 298-303)

41. The speaker is A. fortinbras B. Guildenstern C. Laertes D. hamlet

42. The queen has just A. left the scene B. died C. run away D. arrived

43. The character being addressed is A. Hamlet B. the queen C. the king D. fortinbras

44. The addressee later A. kills him self B. sleeps off C. runs away D. stabs the king

45. The setting is A. a hall in the castle B. the battlefield C. a platform in front of the castle D. the queen’s room

46. The speaker is A. Polonius B. the king C. hamlet D. the queen

47. The character being addressed is A. Horatio B. Marcellus C. Polonius D. Leartes

48. The speaker is suffering from A. malaria B. headache C. tumor D. hallucination

49. The other character in the scene is A. the king B. Marcellus C. Polonius D. the queen

50. The character that just left the scene is A. Hamlet and Horatio B. Rosencrantz and the queen C. the king and the queen D. the king and the Guildenstern

I shall the affect of this good lesson keep,

As watchman to my heart, but, good my brother

Do not, as some ungracious pastor do,

Show me the step and thorny way to heaven;

While, like a puff’s and reckless libertine,

Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads,

And recks not his own rede.

(Act I, scene Three, Lines 45-51)

51. The speaker is A. Getrude B. Ophelia C Reynaldo D. Guildenstern


1. L.A. Hill et al, English Language Teaching Games

2. E. B. Castle, The Teacher

3. Richard .J. Smith and Max .F. Schulz, Journeys, a Reading and Literature Programme, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Publishers,(Newyork,1982)

4. Benson Omonode, Background To Literature, University Press, 1992 Benin City

5. Nanyen Ojukwu, Literature in English, Hybrid Publishers, 1997, Onitsa

6. Tony .O. Uche,Modern English and Literature, Primasecter Publications,2001 Enugu Nigeria

7. Chinweikpe Iwuchukwu, Mastering of Literature, 2001

8. Sylvanus Igwebuike, Jamb selected prose and Drama including Literary appreciation Elites publishers, 2000 Onitsa Nigeria

9. William Shakespeare, the Merchant Of Venice, Longman ltd, 1962, England

10. West Africa Examination Council, Senior School Certificate Examination, 2008 Literature-In-English Questions

11. Prentice Hall, Literature, Silver, Annotated Teachers’ Edition, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey 07632


  1. i find this as a valuable tool in my efforts to understanding literature

  2. this is absolutely marvelous for those that are keenly interested in literature. very useful, apt and handy.