We shall concern ourselves with the diverse meanings of literature, its origin and development, and differentiate between the genres of literature. We shall further outline the functions of literature to mankind and above all, consider prose-fiction as a genre of literature. Prose- fiction is divided in to the novel, short story, and novella/novelette. We shall look into the nature and structure of these artistic compositions and conclude with appreciating some selected novels and short stories.


The study of literature in schools and colleges is an old tradition. Although, students who do not have literary background always fidget when they are being introduced to literature, this is because, the language used by literary artists do not always present itself to quick apprehension and above all, some students see no reason why they should study literature. To this end, this course is aimed at introducing students to literature and methods by means of which the thematic thrust is apprehended.


Before we discuss what literature really entails, we must consider what literary appreciation is. Literary appreciation is a critical aspect of literature; it is different from book review, literary criticism or literary theory. In the literary circle, scholars have grappled with the question: what is literary appreciation and some of them have proffered answers and definitions.

Okonkwo, N.C. is of the opinion that:

The process of determining the quality of a literary work is called evaluation or appreciation. The work is analyzed according to certain standards, and the opinion or opinions arrived at should be supported with evidence from the text being evaluated. (232)

The professional who engages in this enterprise is known as a “critic”. The literary work is considered by some critics as complete in itself and in the process of evaluation; the critic should concentrate on the text itself and should not introduce anything outside it. Evidences from the text are extracted to support the conclusion[s] reached by the critic.

Literary appreciation in other words is the evaluation of the merits and demerits of a literary work of art. To successfully evaluate a work, the critic must be familiar with the tools of the business. In the appreciation of the novel, for instance, the critic must first “determine the nature of the text he is dealing with” (Akwanya 46) and must be familiar with the elements of fiction and of narrative techniques. It is therefore, pertinent to examine how different elements work together within the whole to serve a particular purpose or create particular effect. The main elements are theme, plot, setting, characterization/character, and language.

To attain a perfect understanding of the component parts, the critic must be able to read literary works in a manner capable of revealing the form and content of the work. The following are steps in studying a literary work of art:

In literary studies, works [poetry, prose and drama] are studied and not read. You must focus on the content or the world created by the author. This world we can enter into, full of people, places, things, and events, to which we respond with liking or hatred, pity or criticism, as we do to the real world. Studying from this angle, we will discuss the characters almost as if they were beings with ability to choose their actions.

Focus on the novel as a text, as a created work of art, and look at it in a much more detached and analytical way. Characters are devices which the author uses and manipulates to create a particular effect. Their only existence is in the precise words on the page. Studying from this position, we will be more likely to consider what a character’s role is in the construction of a plot, or the effect of using language to describe a place or person.

Read a set text twice if possible. This gives you the opportunity to gain an overall impression of the novel, different aspects of the text and how the plot is constructed and what form of novel it is.

Finally, do some research about the text:  find out what you can about the author and what was going on [the historical and cultural epoch] when the novel was written. Knowing the historical and social background, the convention and beliefs of the time can help you to understand things which may otherwise seem strange or incomprehensible.


Every human society has its own literature, that is, why we have tribal, national, regional, and continental literatures. However, the question: what is literature has been asked by both students and scholars of literature. Martins Amechi for instance observes that: “the word literature is an offshoot of the word ‘literate’ which means ‘able to read and write” (1). This definition concern itself with the literal (denotative) meaning of the word literature. Literature goes beyond the mere ability to read and write. It transcends knowing the rudiments of reading.

Harry Chijioke however, gives a bloated definition of literature. He holds that, literature:

Can be defined as any work or writing that has an enduring value and of universal interest touching on themes such as religion, government, romance, politics, and science. It makes use of language, form, and imagination as special tools. In a nutshell, it is the stylistic use of words to achieve various literary purposes. (1)

Chijioke’s definition is in itself pregnant but doesn’t capture the essence of literary science. Any kind of writing that has “an enduring value and universal interest” cannot be said to constitute the kind of literature we are dealing with. There are writings that have enduring values and of universal appeal but not studied as literary objects. Literature, nevertheless, is a serious academic enterprise. It is as serious as Medicine and Surgery, Architecture, Astronomy, or Engineering. We then must look for a definition capable of capturing what really literature entails. However, must build our definition on the premises that, literature is a mean to an end and an end in itself. That is, literature is a subject and an object.

Geography, for instance, is the study of the earth. Thus, geography is the method of investigating the essence of the earth. Nevertheless, it is not the earth itself. In other words, geography studies something – the earth. Biology, on the other hand, is the study of life. It is a subject, and not life – the object being studied. The subject studies something outside itself, something that is independent.  Literature however does not exist in that form. We must, however, authenticate here that all printed materials are literature. Therefore, we have spiritual, biological, anthropological, psychological and business literatures. In this course, however, we are concerned with a kind of literature that is different from all other kinds. Notwithstanding, literature manifests itself in three distinct forms:

Literature is all printed materials which instruct, delight and inform man.

Literature is the study of all literary or creative works of art – poetry, prose and drama.

Literature is a form of expression concerned with what is not said but how it is said.

Literature is a writing that distinguishes itself by having no method of verification, except its own existence as writing should have sufficient inner force to uphold itself and hold its own against other existents.

Literature, as a field of inquiry is the study of all literary works of art [poetry, prose and drama], how they are created and the methods by which they are made. And as an object, literature is all work of arts produced by literary artists valued for its artistic merits.


Literature is as old as man. In the account of creation, when Eve was brought to Adam, he exclaimed thus:

This is now bone of my bones,

And flesh of my flesh

She shall be called woman,

Because she was taken out of man.

In the lines above, we see repetition of “bone” and “bones”, “flesh” and “flesh”. Also, Eve is referred to as “bone” and “flesh” but in reality, a part of her is taken for a whole – Synecdoche. The last two lines rhyme: “wo[man]” and “man”. The lines above are poetic, a kind of literature and we shall devote this chapter to tracing the development of literature in Europe and Africa respectively.

There are two forms of literature:

Written form

Oral form

Europeans trace the history of their literature to Athens. In the worship of Dionysus, dramatic and poetic works were rendered. The Greeks and Romans handed the world rich literary heritage. This heritage was absorbed by European countries, thus, nationalizing what hitherto a world heritage. Since we inherited the British literary culture as a result of colonialism, we shall concentrate on the development of written literature in England. English literature is broken into periods. These include:

The Renaissance Age (1400 – 1500)

The Elizabethan Age (1485 – 1625)

Neoclassical Period (1660 -1798)

The Romantic Age (1798 -1837)

The Victorian Age (1832 – 1901)

The Modernist Age(1901 – 1960

Postmodernism (1960 –  )

The oldest literary form was poetry. However, drama took over the age in 5th century BC. Writers like Sophocles, Euripides, Thespis etc wrote plays which were staged in the Dionysian competition. The novel, which is an aspect of prose, took over the literary stage in the late 1700s. The Victorian period entrenches the novel as a dominant form in England.

Colonialism brought English language and its literary tradition to Africa in general and Nigeria in particular. Hitherto, the dominant form of literature in Africa was the oral form. This is because; many African societies hadn’t developed writing methods or were not literate prior to the emergence of colonialism.

Oral literature is the vehicle of transmission of culture, beliefs and thoughts and customs of a given society from one generation to another. It is the way traditional people express themselves. Storytelling is the medium of transmission in oral literature. F. M. Mbunda reinforces our position when he says that:

Oral literature is the verbal art of essentially non-literate societies composed extemporaneously before a traditional audience and transmitted, from one generation to another, by word of mouth (125)

 Oral literature manifests itself in the forms of riddle, legend, myth, folklore, and proverbs. There are major elements that distinguished oral literature from other forms of literature and these include:


The artist/performer





CONTEXT: there must be a situation or an occasion that necessitates the performance of oral literature. This occasion could be the death of a great warrior or a titled man, an installation, new yam festival, or marriage celebration. In Africa, literature plays vital role in the society. Literature arises from the society, thus, without the context, oral literature is lifeless. The context gives life to the narrative and without a context there can be no narrative.

THE ARTIST/PERFORMER: Oral literature depends on the performer or artist who formulates methods of presentation. The performer harnesses his creative ability to stimulate enthusiasm in the audience. He also gives body and form to the material, formulates and realizes it within specific social occasion. The performer looks critically at communal experience, past and present and makes pronouncement. When the society changes, he gives new forms and expressions.

PERFORMANCE: A deeper meaning, appreciation and understanding of oral literature is achieved by observing the performers perform than by reading the texts. Performance is the art of delivering or rendering before the audience the oral work of art. The performer uses his voice as a tool in his narrative. He gestures and wears appropriate facial expressions to tally with the experience he shares or depicts.

AUDIENCE: There can be no oral literature without the audience.  The audience appreciates the performance by clapping, singing along with the performer or in other cases, booed the artist when the performance is not interesting or he deviates from the norm they are used to. The audience determines the success or failure of the performance.

REPETITION: This is one of the basic structural features in oral literature. This could be of action phrases or words. Repetition could be for emphasis, clarity, or to maintain rhythm and to lengthen performance. The repetition of certain words or phrases becomes pertinent in oral literature because, the performer who depends on his voice and other non-verbal communicative tools to pass across his message will look for phrases or words that will linger in the sub-conscious of his listeners and they will go away humming the repeated phrases or words continuously long after the performance might have ended.

IMPROVISATION: there are certain folklores, poetic and narrative works that belong to the community and the artist takes from the communal accessible pool, reformulates the traditional subject in order to produce something new and palatable to the contemporary audience. Oral literature is thus characterized by continuity which links the present with the past.

In Africa, the oral tradition flows into the written one. The first University in Nigeria, University College, Ibadan weaned the first generation of Nigerian writers. These include: Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, J.P. Clark etc. with education, Nigerian writers adopted the Western literary form which include dramatic, and narrative forms. They used these forms to expressed African sentiments and sensibilities, transplanted African oral works into the European forms thereby giving birth to a hybrid which is not pro-European but powerful enough to be called African literature. African literature therefore expresses the cultural, historical, and regional experiences of the African people. It also reflects the historical phases of Africa as also influenced by historical evolution of the continent.  Charles Nnolim buttresses more on the reflection of history in literature when he says that:

A literary work is a transcript of contemporary manners, a manifestation of a certain kind of mind, and we could recover from the monument of literature a knowledge of the manner in which men thought and felt at a particular epoch in history. (95)

This means that, the history of a people could be hidden in the tapestry of their literature. African writers however, have to cope with the transient nature of African societies which rapidly moves from communalism to modernism. They thus, capture the life of Africans in pre-colonial, colonial and postcolonial epochs and how the transiency of life affects man as he grapples with the economic, sociopolitical realities of the African world. Therefore;

A changed and changing world should have sensitive writers that are able to adjust to its ever –changing societies. And here is the crux of the matter: the writer must be able to make a change of direction in his artistic vision when the life and the world he has always known seem to abandon him or seem to be ahead of him by constantly changing before his eyes. (94)


We have established earlier that literature is a subject as well an object. A novel, for instance, is an object (literary art) and the method by which it is analyzed, studied and appreciate is a subject called literature. What then is the benefit of studying literary objects?

H.G. Widdowson considers the aim of literature to be the training of “intelligence and sensibility, to cultivate sensitiveness and precision of response. (73) The sensitivity of the reader to the beauty of language and the imaginative recreation of life is aroused and this makes the reader a better human being. To this end, the teaching of literature to Widdowson is imperative because:

It is concerned not with the transmission of facts and ready-made interpretations but with the development in the learners of interpretative procedures which can be applied to a range of language uses, both literary and non-literary, which they encounter inside and outside the formal learning situation (84)

We must observe here that, the object of study in literature is imaginative or creative works of art – “fiction, narrative poetry, and drama” (Minot 139). Fiction is not factual; it is “one way to make things up without being called a lair. (139) If the object here is a “make believe”, “non-existent”, and “fictional”, then what value does such an enterprise holds for humanity and what role does it play in the acquisition and utilization of knowledge for the betterment and advancement of humanity in a chaotic world? Below are some of the functions of literature to mankind.

Literature gives you a rich and well rounded humanistic education. This can be achieved through broadening your cultural horizon, exposing you to works that are varied in perspectives and yet universal in application.

It re-enforces the English Language skill already acquired by you by exposing you to language in action in literary texts and works.

It exposes you to the beauty and potentials of language.

It exposes you to healthy human values and attributes.

It equips you with the capacity for independent, rational, logical thought and judgment.

It encourages attempts at creativity as a means of understanding the creative process and appreciating the principle of creativity, especially for those who can benefit from it.

It develops your ability to respond appropriately and independently to literary works.

It induces in you the entertainment and instructive values of literature as a follow-up to the literary skills learnt in secondary schools.

It helps you utilize each literary activity as scaffolding for language growth and development.

Finally, literature models and reshapes our perspectives of life. When we are exposed to different aspects of life as presented in literature, we learn and become wiser and find ourselves in position to proffer good advice to people who are in dilemma as a result of difficult trying live situations which they find themselves.

Literature is a socio-cultural product. It exists in the society and presents illusions of reality. The people, places and actions that take place in a literary work are not what we exactly see in real life. In literature therefore, we are entertained by being exposed to aspects of human life and we learn the right attitude, how o make judgment and how to draw conclusions from the situations we find ourselves at every moment. When we read a work of art, we enter into the experience of the characters and we are left to our own conclusions and evaluations of the experience. Through literature therefore, thruth about life is revealed.


The term genre simply means “kind”, “type” or “form.” Literature is divided into forms just as humankind is divided into races and the world into continents. We have seven continents: Africa, Europe, North America, South America, Antarctica, Asia, and Austria. Each of these continents is further divided into countries: Nigeria, Ghana, Gambia, Chad, Ethiopia, Niger, Senegal, Eritrea, Togo etc. there are however, peculiarities that differentiate for instance, Africans from Europeans, Nigerians from Ethiopians. Thus, in literature, poetry, prose and drama are the recognized genres of literature. That is, literature manifests itself in three distinct forms with their internal logics, rules and regulations, formal features, similarities, differentiations and peculiarities.


Prosaic writing simply says something without necessarily trying to say it in a beautiful way, or using beautiful words. Prose consists of writing that does not adhere to any particular formal structures other than simple grammar; “non-poetic” writing. In others words, this is all forms of written or spoken expressions which do not have regular rhythmic pattern. The language of news, business and administration is prosaic. Prose, therefore, may be said to be everyday language which has been represented or transformed into writing.

There are two types of prose:

Non fiction



This is the opposite of fiction. It deals with true experiences and happenings. In other words, nonfiction refers to prose writings that deal with facts. Examples of nonfictional works include



Newspaper articles



Movie reviews


True-life adventure stories etc.


Every human being has a story to tell. The desire to share our feelings, experiences facilitates storytelling. Man does not thrive in isolation; therefore, expressing our real life experience as a literary form becomes an art form because of the deployment and utilization of artistic tools in the narration.  In literature, there are certain kinds of autobiographies that have literary merits and thus studied in literary studies. Therefore, autobiography is the story of a person’s life as written by that person.

Examples of autobiographical works include:

Obafemi Awolowo’s My Early Life

Kenneth Kaunda’s  Zambia shall be Free

NnamdiAzikwe’s  My Odyssey

Nelson Mandela’s  Long Walk to Freedom


We often tell others other people’s experiences. These experiences could be tragic, comic or nostalgic. A father could tell his children about the life and times of their grandfather who died many years before they were born. This story could be valued based on how the narrator handles the narrative. However, biography is the written account of a person’s life by another. The person whose life is recounted could either be dead or alive.

Examples of biographical narratives are:

Robert Paine’s  Life and Death of Lenin

Chidi Amuta’s  The Princess of the Niger


The tern fiction is often applied in broad sense to a wide array of literary narratives whose major similarity is that they are drawn from the imagination rather than from historical facts. However, fiction draws its vitality from man’s life and social experience. In other words, the raw material of fiction comes from life. Fiction is therefore the writing that consists of imaginary elements. Although it can be inspired by actual events and real people, it usually springs from writers’ imaginations. In other words, fiction is used for imaginative writing drawn from the imagination of the author rather than from history or facts. The term is usually associated with novels, short stories and novellas, although drama and narrative poetry are also forms of fiction.

Types of prose-fiction                                                                      



Short story


 The English word, novel, comes from the Italian word novella which means “a little new thing”. The term novella was originally applied to a short, generally realistic prose tale which originated from Italy. Jane Austen, however, defines the novel as:

A fictitious prose narrative or tale presenting a picture  of real life, especially of the emotional crises in the life-history of the men and women portrayed. […] some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best chosen language. (qtd in Cross and Croft 6)

Jane Austen’s description of the novel is apt in that all the major features of the novel are captured. The novelist captures the life history of his characters in their happiest and saddest moments and makes the narrative true- to- life as much as possible. However,   the novel is an extended prose fiction, in the narrative rather than dramatic mode, whose subject is man in society. The novel, in summary, is a long work of fiction which may contain thirty thousand words or more. It is essentially the product of a writer’s imagination, thus, a novelist can develop a wider range of characters, complex plot structure, digressions, and sophistication of narration.

Types of novel include:

Gothic novel

Historical novel

Novel of incidence

Novel of the soil

Sociological novel


Psychological novel

Romantic novel

Pastoral novel

Epistolary novel

Science fiction

Crime fiction

Novel of character

Novel of manner


A novella is a work of fiction that is longer than a short story but shorter than a novel. A novella differs from the novel in that it concentrates on a limited cast of characters, a relatively short time span and a single chain of events. Both novel and novella have long histories dating back to ancient times. Their origin lay in man’s instinctive love of storytelling as a way of giving entertainment and teaching some moral lessons. A novella contains between five thousand and fifteen thousand words.

Examples of novellas or novelettes are

Cyprian Ekwensi’s The Passport of Mallam Ilia

Joseph Conrad’s House of Hunger

Dambudzo Marachera’s House of Hunger

George Orwell’s Animal farm

Chinua Achebe’s Chike and the River


Scholars of literature defined the short story from two perspectives. Some see it as a work of art whose content and form must be whole and elegant drawn from a single narrative situation while others define it in terms of time taken to read the work and the numbers of words that form the body of the work. William Flint Thrall and Addison Hibbard have suggested a definition of short story thus:

The short story is an imaginative narrative consisting of a series of incidents drawn from one situation and creating upon the reader a singleness of effect… [These] incidents are so arranged as to show the action progressing through a climax to a denouement as the result of the interplay of opposing forces upon each other, this interplay springing from qualities of character inherent and natural to the participants. (qtd. In Okonkwo 226)

The short story from the definition above should have “one situation” that is, the story should have a single plot structure and the story created should be concise such that it can create on the reader “a singleness of effect.”   However, the description above is silent over the length of a short story. Many modern scholars try to define the short story in terms of length and time taken to read a short story. In this light, the short story is a work of fiction that centres on a single idea and can be read in a sitting. Generally, a short story has one main conflict that involves and revolves around the characters. In other words, it is short, contains no digressions but few characters. A short story above all, contains between five hundred and five thousand words.


Elements are the constituent parts that make up a whole. Elements of fiction are the combined effects that give a literary work of art its particular quality. The effective use of the elements of fiction helps in creating beauty and messages.  The elements of fiction include the following:







The plot is the arrangement of events in a fictional work of art. Traditionally, the plot has a beginning, middle and an end. The plot begins with an exposition; the conflict develops to a climax, leading to a denouement then the conclusion. We have three different types of plot structure and these include:

Chronological or sequential plot structure

Media res plot structure

From the end to the beginning

The modern novel employs a plethora of plot structures to create a complex organic whole. Thus, some plot structures avoid the cause and effect relationship but use disjointed plotting which always makes the work complex to an impatient reader.


This refers to the time, location and social condition in which the action of a narrative takes place. The following are the elements of setting.

The general environment of the characters, such as the religious, mental, moral, social, and emotional conditions through which the characters move.

The geographical location, topography and scenery

The time or period in which the action takes place (for example, the historical epoch, season of the year, time of the day).

A literary work could be set in Suntai, Takum, Bali, Jalingo, Wukari etc., this is the geographical locale, however, and the historical setting has to do with the period in history where a work of art takes place or is set. The history of Africa is segmented into three phases: Pre-colonial, colonial, and the postcolonial epochs. Novels like Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, Arrow of God  are set in the pre-colonial cum colonial epochs while his A Man of the People, Anthill of the Savannah are set in the postcolonial Africa. Ngugi wa Thiong’O’S River Between, Weep Not, Child are set in the pre-colonial and colonial epochs while Devil on the Cross, Petals of Blood, Wizard of the Crow are set in the postcolonial Africa.


Characters are the persons whose speeches and actions pass across the author’s message[s]. However, the creation of persons and the roles given each to perform is characterization. In other words, characterization is the drawing of characters through the use of devices like giving imaginary people special attributes to make  them appear real to the reader. We have four methods of characterization and these are:

What the writer says about the character

What the character says about himself

What other characters say about a character

The actions and inactions of the character

There are however, four types of character:

Round or Dynamic Character: this is one who develops or changes as the story of a work of literary art. The character develops from good to worse or worse to good. There is a change in physical status, in appearance, and in nature.

Flat or Static Character: a flat or static character is one who does not develop or change as the story of the work develops or unfolds. The character does not change by the events and sociohistorical upheavals in the narrative.

Major and Minor Characters: A major character is a character who takes active and important part from the beginning of the narrative to its end. All the action of the story are built around the activities of the major character. The death of the major character affects greatly the plot structure. A minor character is one who does not play any major or decisive part in the narrative. He or she may not feature from the beginning of the story and his death may not affect the plot structure.

Protagonists and Antagonists: the protagonist is the chief character in a play. He may also be referred to as the central character. The antagonist opposes the protagonist and seeks his destruction. The antagonist always is destructive to the society and humanity but the protagonist often appears as a liberator who unchains the society from the hands of the oppressors.


The theme of a novel is its central or governing idea or ideas. It is the idea which runs through the work, and around which all other aspects of the work are organized. It is also the meaning or point of the story, what the story adds up to. In other words, the theme of any literary work is the message or messages that the writer intends to pass across to his readers. Every other elements i.e. conflict, setting, character, plot, language, narrative devices etc are joined together by the theme as every style used by the writer is to help him enhance the power and quality of the message or theme.

Early African literature dealt with themes of slavery, colonialism, imperialism, disillusionment, culture conflict which are direct consequences of the contact between Africa and European colonialists. The postcolonial African literature captures the themes of corruption, societal decay, and bad governance, neocolonialism, political disillusionment and the need for revolution to change the decayed social system. In the 21st century, the world is grappling with insecurity, fundamentalism and terrorism, to this end, it becomes expedient for the novel of the 21st century to focus itself on this social malady and proffer panacea.


All literature exists in the form of language: either as spoken utterance or in writing. Language is, therefore, the most important element of fiction, since it is language which gives existence to all the other elements. The language of a novel exists in two dimensions: the narrative or authorial prose, which is the language in which the author or a fictional narrator presents the narrative and the dialogue, in which the fictional characters express themselves. A study of the language of a literary work is first of all a study of style. However, we shall look at diction an aspect of language in fiction.

Diction is another aspect of style. It is the writer’s choice of words of words and manner of employing them. The writer may use simple words or compound, complex words. He may use common English words or archaic words. He may even coin his own words, or combine existing words into new compounds. The choice of words is greatly influenced by such considerations as the subject and setting of the narrative, the characters who are involved in the incidence being presented, the type of audience to whom the work is primarily addressed, and the intentions of the novelist.


This is otherwise known as narrative devices. This is the manner in which a literary artist employs certain literary devices to give a structure to the story, reveal his themes, portray his characters, and achieve any other effect he desires. A discussion of the narrative technique entails making a close examination of, and commenting on, the writer’s handling of the various elements of the narrative art to solve certain artistic problems and achieve certain effects and purposes. It involves examining and explaining the writer’s use of the elements of fiction, figurative language, imagery, symbolism, narrative point of view, stream of consciousness, dramatic monologue, dialogue, suspense, symbolism and flashback. Of all the narrative devices, we shall discuss three important devices and these include:

Narrative Point of View 




This is the manner in which the story is told -  the mode or perspective established by the writer by means of which the reader apprehend the characters, setting, actions and dialogue and the events which constitute the narrative in a work of fiction.  In other words, point of view is the position, or angle from which a writer chooses to present his narrative. This always affect the language, imagery, symbolism and other devices which could be employed in the narrative prose. There are different types of narrative point of view and these include:

Omniscient narrative point of view

First person narrative point of view

Third person narrative point of view

Stream of consciousness

The Omniscience narrative point of view is also referred to as the all knowing narrative technique. It is the most common narrative technique. It is a narrative style in which the novelist narrates his story like the God himself. He digs into the past, future and minds of the characters freely. The narrator knows everything about the characters and he reveals to the reader as much as he wants. It is used by Chinua Achebe in Arrow of God, Things Fall Apart; Festus Iyayi’s Violence, Vincent Egbuson’s Womandela, Ifeoma Okoye’s Behind the Cloud, Zainab Alkali’s The Stillborn and Sembene Ousmane’s God’s Bits of Wood.

The first person narrative point of view is the main style used in autobiographical works where the first person pronoun “I” is used. The narrator is usually the main character in the story. He describes his own actions and he is limited only to scenes where he is involved. It is a subjective narrative point of view because the personal view of the narrator interferes with the narration. Example is  Amos Tutuola’s The Palm Wine Drinkard etc.

The Third Person Narrative Point of View is also known as the reflector or the camera-eye. It is a narrative device in which the writer narrates the story from the ‘eye’ or ‘consciousness’ of one of the characters, usually the main or central character. The writer describes the actions and inactions of the central character and he forms the epicenter of the narrative. The writer cannot prop into the consciousness of other characters and episodes where the main character is absent is always not recounted or in a flashback by another character who might be an eye witness. Examples: Ifeoma Okoye’s Behind the Cloud, Ayi Kwei Armah’s  The Beautiful Ones are not Yet Born.

Stream of Consciousness is a device in which the writer concentrates on the mind of the character as they grapple with the problems surrounding their external world. There is less emphasis on external actions as the novelist concentrates on the characters’ psychology, thus, it is the object of thought of the character that forms the bulk of the story. It is usually used to prop the mind of the character that undergo serious psychological problem.


Imagery is from the word “image.” In literature, words are used to paint pictures as painters use brush and paints. Therefore, writers make use of figures of speech such as metaphor, simile, personification, synecdoche, hyperbole to create mental pictures in the mind of the reader. In this light, imagery is a collective name for all the created objects which are used by a writer as to create desired effects in the reader. Images created can appeal to our five senses which include: the sense of sight [visual], smell [olfactory], hearing [auditory], feeling [tactile], and of taste.

A writer could describe a scene of fatal accident in the following word:

Blood, red blood, oozing from gashes of both young and old! The air was darkened by thick black smoke gushing from the twisted bonnet of the dilapidated car. Wailing of the wounded and dying made my bones shudder. I could not hold back tears from falling down my cheeks in a stream.

From the description above, ‘blood’ is an object seeable by the eyes, ‘Smoke gushing from the twisted bonnet’ appeals to the sense of sight. While ‘wailing of the wounded and dying’ appeals to the auditory sense, etc.


We often use symbols consciously or unconsciously in both spoken and written forms of expression. In some families or clans in Africa, there are animals, and objects that serve as totem [symbol] of that clan or family. Some families have eagles, tigers, elephants, snails as their totem. In Nigeria, for instance, we have objects that are symbolic which include the anthem, coat of arms, national flag. In the flag, “green” symbolizes ‘agriculture, fertility of the country’ while “white” symbolizes ‘peace, unity and strength’. In this light, literary artists make use of words, situations to represent ideas. William Golding uses objects in his Lord of the Flies to represent ideas. The “conch” in the novel stands for democracy and progress. “Jack” represents anarchy, violence and dehumanization. “Piggy” stands for science, progress, while “Ralph” symbolizes the ideals of Western democracy and progress. The cross is a symbol of Christianity while the moon and crescent symbolizes Islam. These symbols could be used in literature instead of direct reference to situations.


It is imperative to conclude this lecture by reemphasizing the importance of literature to mankind. Literature is a humanizing agent: it makes you a better human being. It therefore becomes imperative for us to read books, especially literary texts. In them, we encounter others who are faced with diverse challenges comparable to ours. We grapple with fate, nature and the supernatural world.  The solution they proffer could be a compass to us. We should endeavour to read novels written by Europeans, Americans, Asians and African writers. In so doing, we acquaint ourselves with the history and sociological upheavals that sharpened the evolution of man on earth for no writer writes in a vacuum.

Consulted Materials

Akinwande, Nelson. Introduction to Literary Appreciation. Lagos: Tonad Publishers, 1999. Print.

Akparobaro, F.B.O. Introduction to African Oral Literature. Lagos: Princeton Publishers, 1999. Print.

 Akwanya, A.N. Discourse Analysis and Dramatic Literature. Enugu: New Generation Books, 2008. Print.

Akwanya, A.N. Verbal Structures: Studies in the Organizational Patterns of Literary Language. Enugu: New Generation Books, 2011. Print.

Aristotle. Poetics. Orange Press Classic, [Translated by S.H. Butler] 1998. Pdf

Chijioke, Harry.  Current Literature-In-English. Enugu: Chij Press and Publishing, 2003. Print.

Chinweizu, et al. Decolonizing the African Literature: African Fiction and Poetry and the Critic. Enugu: Fourth Dimension Publishing Co. Ltd., 1980. Print.

Cross, Helen and Croft, Steven. Literature, Criticism and Style: A Practical Guide to Advanced Level English Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. Print.

Davidson, Basil. The African Genius. USA: Little Brown and Company, 1969. Print.

 Emenyonu, Ernest.  Studies on the Nigerian novel. Ibadan: Oluseyi Press Ltd. 1991. Print.

Gbilekaa, Saint. Radical Theatre in Nigeria. Ibadan: Caltop Publication, 1997. Print.

Humphrey, Robert. Stream of Consciousness in the Modern Novel. USA: University of California Press, 1962. Print.

 Ibitola, A.O. Essential Literature-In-English for Senior Secondary Schools. Lagos: Tonad Publishers, 2005. Print.

 Minot, Stephen. The Three Genres: Poetry, Prose and Drama. New York: The Odyssey Press, 1981. Print.

Nnolim, Charles. Issues in African Literature. Lagos: Malthouse Press Ltd. 2010. Print.

Nwabueze, Emeka. Studies in Dramatic Literature. Enugu: ABIC Books and Equip Ltd., 2011. Print.

Ogunbiyi, Yemi. Drama and Theatre in Nigeria: A Critical Source Book. Great Britain: The Pitman Press, 1981. Print.

 Onuigbo, Sam (Ed.).  Essays and Literary Concepts in English. Nsukka: Afro-Orbis Publishing Co. Ltd., 2006. Print.

Ozioko, Theodora and Ike, Vivian. European Literature. Enugu: De-Adroit Innovation, 2009. Print.

Widdowson, H.G. Stylistics and the Teaching of Literature. London: Longman, 2010. Print.

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