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Macro-Components of Poetic Structure


Poetic structure of the literary work involves such entities as image, theme, idea, composition, plot, genre and style [5, p. 34]. As components of poetic structure they are inseparable from each other, but as basic categories of the theory of literature they may be treated in isolation.


Literary Image


The world of a literary work is the world of its characters, situations, events, etc. similar to those of real life. Literature cognizes and interprets life by re-creating life in the form of images inspired by life and in accordance with the author’s vision [5, p. 35]. It means that, for instance, Louis Creed from Stephen King’s Pet Sematary is not just a college doctor, but a literary character created by King in precisely the way his talent, his vision and his understanding of an ambitious young doctor’s family life have urged him to create [31]. In giving the image the author transmits to the reader his own philosophy of life, his ethic and moral code.

Literary image is thus the “language” of literature, the form of its existence. The term image refers not only to the whole of the literary work or to characters as its main elements, but also to any of its meaningful units such as details, phrase, etc. [5, p. 35]

All images in the literary work constitute a hierarchical interrelation. The top of this hierarchy is the macro-image, i.e. the literary work itself, which includes the image of life, the image of characters and the image of the author. At the bottom of the hierarchy there is the word-image or the micro-image (tropes and figures of speech), which builds up character-images, event-images, landscape-images, etc. Each micro-image, when in isolation, is just a stylistic device, but within the poetic structure it is an element, which equally with others, helps to reveal the content [5, p. 36].

In literature attention is usually centered on human character and human behaviour, though the images of things, animals, landscape, time, etc. may also be important. In most literary works one character is clearly dominant from the beginning up to the end. Such a character us generally called the main, central or major character, or the protagonist. The main character may also be called hero or heroine, if he or she deserves to be called so. The antagonist is the personage opposing the protagonist or hero. The villain is the character with marked negative features [3, p. 29].

Since images in art reflect the writer’s subjective attitude to them, they are always emotive and appeal to the reader through all the senses: sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste. In the reader’s mind images call up not only visual pictures and other sense impressions, they also arouse feelings, such as warmth, compassion, affection, delight or dislike, disgust, resentment. Our emotional responses are directed by the words with which the author creates his images [3, p. 27].

Accordingly, characters may be simple (flat), which are constructed round a single trait, and complex (rounded), which undergo change and growth, revealing various sides of their personalities [3, p. 30]. Characters may also be shown statically (when the character does not undergo any changes throughout the story) and dynamically (when the character is depicted in his/her development)

The characters can be portrayed from different aspects: physical, emotional, moral, spiritual, social. The description of those aspects is known as characterization [3, p. 31]. There are two main types of characterization: direct (when the author rates the character himself) and indirect (when the author shows the character in action and lets us watch and evaluate him for ourselves).

L.V. Borisova [3] distinguishes the following means of characterization:

1. presentation of the character through action (which shows his behaviour and deeds);

2. speech characteristics (which reveal the character’s social and intellectual standing, his age, education, occupation, his state of mind and feelings, etc);

3. psychological portrayal and analysis of motives (by way of inner and represented speech);

4. Description of the character’s appearance;

5. Description of the world of things that surround the character;

6. The use of a foil


Theme and Idea


The theme of a literary work is the represented aspect of life. L.V. Borisova believes that the theme of a story is the main area of interest treated in it [3, p. 80]. As literary works commonly have human characters for the subject of depiction, V.B. Sosnovskaya states that the theme of a literary work may be understood as an interaction of human characters under certain circumstances, such as some social or psychological conflict [5, p. 37].

A writer may depict the same theme from different angles. The same theme may also be differently developed and integrated with other themes in different works. Within a single work the basic theme may interlace with rival themes and their relationship may be very complex. The theme of a literary work can be easily understood from the plot (the surface layer) of the work [5, p. 37].

Even a well-written paragraph has the theme or topic. The topic of the passage is usually stated in the first sentence, although other positions are also possible. Read the following paragraph:

The family heard the siren warning them that the tornado was coming. They hurried to the cellar. The roar of the tornado was deafening, and the children started crying. Suddenly it was silent. They waited awhile before they went outside to survey the damage.

In the preceding paragraph, the topic – tornado – is stated in the first sentence. In the following paragraph, the main topic is stated in the last sentence:

The family hurried to the cellar and waited. First, they heard the pounding of the hailstones. The wind became deafening, and the children started crying. Suddenly it was silent. They waited awhile before they ventured outside to see the damage the tornado had done.

Sometimes the topic is not stated in the passage at all but is implied, as in the following passage:

The sky became dark and threatening. A funnel of dust began forming in the air and soon reached down to touch the ground. Debris was seen swirling around as everything was swallowed up, twisted, and then dropped.

Although “tornado” is not mentioned in the passage, it has been implied by the description (“a funnel of dust… in the air,” “debris… swirling,” “twisted”). [18]

According to the number of topics or themes presented in emotive prose, literary works are divided into: short stories (which have one theme and one main character) and novels (which have a leading theme and rival sub-theme, as well as many characters).

In the process of developing the theme the author expresses the idea of a literary work. It is the underlying thought of deductive character and emotional attitude transmitted to the reader by the whole poetic structure of the literary text [5, p. 37]. The most important idea is the message of the literary work [3, p. 61]. It is generally expressed implicitly, i.e. indirectly, and can be conveyed by different techniques, such as:

· parallelism (e.g. parallel actions of the dream and reality, or parallel events which begin and end a story);

· contrast (between the protagonist characters, the impression they try to produce and the impression they actually produce, etc.);

· recurrence (or repetition) of events or situation;

· poetic detail;

· symbols;

· arrangements of plot structure, etc. [3, p. 81].

When a poetic detail is repeated several times and is associated with a broader concept than the original, it develops into a symbol, which is a metaphoric expression of the concept it stands for [3, p. 83].




Plot is a sequence of interlinked events in which the characters are involved, the theme and the idea revealed [3, p. 10; 5, p. 39]. The plot of any story involves character and conflict, which imply each other. Conflict in fiction is the opposition (or struggle) between forces or characters [3, p. 11].

L.V. Borisova [3] classified conflicts into external and internal.

Different types of external conflicts are usually termed in the following way:

1. Man against man (when the plot is based on the opposition between two or more people);

2. Man against nature (the sea, the desert, the frozen North or wild beasts);

3. Man against society or man against the Establishment;

4. The conflict between two different sets of values

Internal conflicts, often termed “man against himself”, take place within one character. They are localized in the character’s inner world and are rendered through his thoughts, feelings, intellectual process, etc.

The plot of a literary work may be based on several conflicts of different types, and may involve both an external and an internal conflict [3, p. 11]. Accordingly short stories are subdivided into: a plot (or action) short story and a psychological (or character) short story (i.e. the conflict of the inner world).

The events of the plot are usually set in particular place and time, which are called the setting. In some stories (novels) the setting is scarcely noticeable, in others it plays a very important role. L.V. Borisova determines the following functions of the setting [3, p. 12]:

1. helping to evoke the necessary atmosphere (or mood), appropriate to the general intentions of the story;

2. reinforcing characterization by either paralleling or contrasting the actions;

3. reflecting the inner state of a character;

4. placing the character in a recognizable realistic environment (by including geographical names and allusions to historical events);

5. revealing certain features of the character (especially when his domestic interior is described);

6. becoming the chief antagonist whom the character must overcome.

The setting may perform one or several functions simultaneously. Characters, actions, conflict and setting work together to accomplish the author’s purpose [3, p. 13].

Each and every event that represents the gist of the plot has a beginning, a development and an end. The plot, accordingly, consists of exposition, story, climax and denouement [5, p. 39].

· The exposition or introduction [çàâÿçêà] contains the necessary preliminaries to the action, such as the setting and the subject of the action; it also may point out the circumstances that will influence the development of the action.

· The story [5, p. 39] or complications [3, p.13] [ðàçâèòèå] is that part of the plot which represents the beginning of the collision and the collision itself, i.e. the development of events.

· The climax [êóëüìèíàöèÿ] is the highest point of the action.

· The denouement [ðàçâÿçêà] is the event or events that bring the action to an end, when everything is explained.

Novels may have two more components of plot structure: the prologue (facts from beyond the past of the story) and the epilogue (additional facts about the future of the characters if it is not made clear enough in the denouement) [3, p. 14].

The sequence of the plot elements may be different. Thus a literary work may begin straight with the action (the conflict) without any exposition, or a story may have no denouement, which invites the reader to reflect the circumstances and imagine the outcome of all the events himself [3, p. 14]. Accordingly, there are two types of plot structure [3, p. 40]:

1. A work of narrative prose that has all the elements mentioned above has a closed plot structure

2. A literary work in which the action is represented without any obvious culmination, which does not contain all the above mentioned elements has an open plot structure.




The arrangement of plot structure components may be represented in a variety of ways. Thus, composition is the way, in which the literary work is arranged [5, p. 45]. Accordingly, composition may be [3, p. 15]:

· Level (or straight line)– all the element of the plot structure are presented in their logical or chronological sequence (e.g. Checkmate by Jeffrey Archer [7]);

· Retrospective or rocky – the exposition may be placed inside the story so that the reader is at once plunged into the event development; or there are flashbacks to the past events (e.g. Nothing Lasts Forever by Sidney Sheldon [52]);

· Circular – the closing event in the story returns the reader to the introductory part e.g. A Stranger in the Mirror by Sidney Sheldon [55]);

· Frame – there is a story within a story; the two stories may be contrastive or parallel (The Notebook by Nicholas Spark [62])

L.V. Borisova [3] also speaks of three kinds of techniques for plot structure arrangement or kinds of presentational sequencing (i.e. the order in which the writer presents the information included into the story), which may affect the intensity of the reader’s impression:

1. retardation – suspense which constantly mounts in the course of the story;

2. flashback – a scene of the past inserted into the narrative;

3. foreshadowing – a look towards the future, a remark or hint that prepares the reader for what is to follow

The composition of a literary work may be represented through different types of narration[3, p. 47-48;5, p.45]:

· the first person narration (the narrator being his own protagonist)

E.g. “Once I had so much. I had everything a woman could possibly ant. And I lost it all. For the past five years since that fateful winter of 1988, I have lived with pain and heartache and grief. I have lived with a sorrow that has been, and still is, unbearable. And yet I have endured. I have gone on.” /B.T. Bradford Everything to Gain/ [11]

· the third person narration (the narrator focuses on some other character or characters)

E.g. The defendant had left his client a few minutes after six. He understood she had intended to change before going out to dinner with her sister in Fulham. He had arranged to see her the following Wednesday at his office for the purpose of drawing up the completed policy. /Jeffrey Archer The Perfect Murder from A Twist in the Tale/ [7]

· anonymous (the narrator has no direct relation to the persons he speaks about, or he may not be present at all)

E.g. Downstairs the rooms opened off the long gallery, upstairs from a central landing. Because its core was very old it had a genuine quietness to it, with floors that dipped, ceilings that sloped, beams that were lopsided. Some of the windows had panes made of antique blown glass dating back to the previous century. /B.T. Bradford Everything to Gain/ [11]

Any type of narration (first-person, third-person or anonymous) is based on the following narrative forms:

1. Interior monologue (the narrator or the character he narrates about speaks to himself)

E.g. For her part Rosie was lost in her thoughts, which were centred on Nell and Kevin. Naturally she was consumed with curiosity about them until they were back at the hotel to ask Nell about this new development in their lives. If it was new. Perhaps the two of them had been involved for a long time, and is this was so why hadn’t either of them mentioned it to her?” /B.T. Bradford Angel/ [54]

2. Dramatic monologue (the narrator or the character speaks alone but there are those he addresses himself to)

E.g. “You were wrong to think I’d come crawling back. Why on earth would I? What do you have to give me that I can’t get elsewhere? You’ve never been much of a giver anyway, Michael. You only give when you’re sure of getting back twice as much. You’re basically a taker.” /Dean Koontz The Eyes of Darkness/ [35]

3. Dialogue (the speech of two or more characters addressed to each other). (the term is too obvious for illustration)

4. Narration (the presentation of events in their development)

E.g. “At three o’clock Sunday afternoon, Tony Rizzoli walked out of his hotel and strolled towards the Platia Omonia. Two detectives were trailing him. At Metaxa Street, Rizzoli hailed a taxi. The detective spoke in his walkie-talkie. ‘The subject is getting into a taxi heading west.’ An unmarked grey sedan pulled in behind the taxi, keeping a discreet distance.” /Sidney Sheldon Memories of Midnight/ [52]

5. Description (the presentation of the atmosphere, the scenery and the like of the literary work)

E.g. “On the pleasant shore of the French Riviera, about half way between Marseilles and the Italian border, stands a large, proud, rose coloured hotel. Deferential palms cool its flushed façade, and before it stretches a short dazzling beach. […]The hotel and its bright prayer rug of a beach were one. In the early morning the distant image of Cannes, the pink and cream of old fortification, the purple alp that bounded Italy, were cast across the water and lay quavering in the ripple and rings sent up by sea-plants through the clear shallows.” /F. Scott Fitzgerald Tender is the Night/ [15]

6. Exposition (explanation of some phenomena, argument, comparison, analysis, etc)

Composition is the arrangement and disposition of all the forms of the subject matter representation.




Genre is a historically formed type of a literary work. The following genres may be mentioned [5, p. 47]:

· Epic (with the narrative prose) – its main variety, events, are objectively narrated

· Lyric (with poetry) – reality is reflected in the author’s inner world

· Dramatic (tragedy, comedy, drama) – present day conflicting events are represented through the characters’ speech and actions.


Tonal System


There is no art without emotion. Fiction appeals to the reader through the senses and evokes responsive emotions. In every literary work the writer’s feelings and emotion are reflected in tone, attitude and atmosphere [3, p. 64].

Atmosphere is the general mood of a literary work. It is affected by the plot, setting, characters, details, symbol, and language means.

The author’s attitude is his view of the character’s and actions, which reflects his judgement f them. It establishes the moral standards according to which the reader is to make his own judgements about the problem raised in the story.

The attitude of a writer determines the tone of the story, i.e. the light in which the characters and events are depicted. Therefore, the tone is closely related to the atmosphere and attitude. The tone may be expressed through:

· emotionally coloured words;

· an extensive use of imagery created by tropes;

· poetic words and structures;

· intensifiers (so, such, very, still, etc.)

· figures of speech

Tone-shifts, which often occur in fiction, may accompany not only a change in the subject, but also a change in the narrative method or in the style. The interaction of rhythm, style and tone establishes and maintains the mood, or the atmosphere of the literary work.

One should also distinguish between the prevailing tone of a literary work as a whole and emotional overtones, which may accompany particular scenes in the story. They all form a tonal system that reflects the changes of the narrator’s attitude to his subject matter [3, p. 68]. The analysis of tone, attitude and atmosphere is a moving towards the underlying thoughts and ideas contained in the work.




Date: 2016-01-03; view: 2021

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