For every learner or teacher of Literature, there is an important aspect of the play or novel, or even long narrative poetry, which must never be taken lightly.
I am referring to the incidents or episodes which constitute the action of the play, for example.
Incidents are so important in any serious study of a literary text that successful learners or teachers of Literature know their ultimate value and treat them accordingly.
Are you a Literature tutor?
Then allow me to tell you why your knowledge or your students’ knowledge of the details of a couple of incidents in the novel, play or narrative poetry you are dealing with is extremely important.
Are you a student of Literature?
I am going to show you right away the reasons every student of Literature ought to have a good knowledge of one or two major events in a play, novel or narrative poetry.
Did you know that you will be able to produce more compelling answers to Literature essay questions than you can do without that knowledge?
It is for the same reasons that we can have a very effective Literature teacher and the not-so-successful one.
The successful teacher of Literature is the one who has a proper grasp of key episodes in the literary text.
By passing on this knowledge to his students, he or she is able to make the students do very well in their final examination.
So why are incidents or episodes in the prescribed texts for the WASSCE Literature-in-English paper so important?
FYI (for your information):
You can obtain the complete list of prescribed texts for the 2016 – 2020 WASSCE Literature-in-English here.
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Getting back to the main topic of this post
What benefits do you stand to gain by grasping the major details of a number of incidents in that novel or play you are currently learning or teaching?
As a learner or teacher of Literature as an academic subject, you need to know the essential details of some major episodes in the play or novel you are studying or teaching now.
Here are the reasons why it is crucial for you to focus much attention on at least some incidents in your prescribe Literature text.
1. Examiners pick their questions mainly from major or even minor incidents.
If you take a very close look at my super collection of 77 likely essay questions on Amma Darko’s Faceless, you will realize that a good number of them are related to one incident or the other in the novel.
The same applies to my collection of likely examination questions on Frank Ogodo Ogbeche’s Harvest of Corruption.
In the near future, I will come up with a master list of most likely questions on both African and Non-African Poetry in your WASSCE, JAMB, GCE or other examination.
My point here is simple. If you focus on two or more incidents in that novel or drama you are currently studying or teaching, you will find that a long list of probable examination questions can be derived from them.
Let me give you an example from Frank Ogodo Ogbeche’s play, Harvest of Corruption.
INCIDENT: The encounter between ACP Yakubu and the Commissioner of Police
- Describe the contribution of ACP Yakubu to the development of the plot in Harvest of Corruption.
- Compare and contrast the characters of ACP Yakubu and the Commissioner of Police.
- What is the significance of ACP Yakubu’s visit to the office of the Commissioner of Police?
- Discuss the theme of corruption in Harvest of Corruption.
- What state institutions come under criticism in Harvest of Corruption?
- What do you admire in ACP Yakubu’s character?
I can go on and on.
You too can discover more questions if you have a full grasp of this very short incident. I mean, the encounter between ACP Yakubu and the Commissioner of Police.
Now let’s take just a single episode from Faceless by Amma Darko.
INCIDENT: Fofo and Odarley Pay a Visit to Maa Tsuru
- Assess the character and role of Fofo.
- Assess the character and role of Maa Tsuru.
- What is the significance of the friendship between Odarley and Fofo?
- Maa Tsuru is the architect of most of her troubles. Comment.
- Describe the relationship between Maa Tsuru and her children.
- Describe Fofo’s attitude towards Nii Kpakpo, bringing out its significance.
- Comment on the significance of Fofo’s first visit from the street to Maa Tsuru in the novel.
And again, I can go on and on.
I can assure you that you will get a lot of ideas from just one or two incidents to write a complete, acceptable essay on many questions based on a particular play or novel.
2. Incidents are usually pregnant with pointers to major themes in the novel or play.
Technically, we call these pointers motifs.
It is motifs in the various Literature texts that help me, for example, to identify the themes I effortlessly dish out to you on this blog.
The author or playwright helps you, the Literature student or teacher, to identify his or her themes just by giving you bits of pointers in the various incidents.
Let’s have an example here.
INCIDENT IN FACELESS: Fofo and Odarley’s visit to the rubbish dump.
In this brief but interesting episode, the novelist points to the theme of streetism.
By describing this incident with so much compassion, the novelist succeeds in bringing to our attention, the following issues about the street child phenomenon.
In fact, she does this with great effectiveness without directly saying so.
- the vulnerabilities of street girls
- experimentation with sex and drugs among street children
- the deplorable, unhygienic conditions under which the street children live
- hunger and starvation among the street children
- the theme of power in the street – thugs like Macho and Poison terrorize girls with their male power
And so on and so forth.
3. Incidents help develop the plot of the novel or play.
In Harvest of Corruption, for example, the very brief meeting between Ochuole and Aloho is central to the development of the plot.
Indeed, it is this chance meeting between two former schoolmates that will move the action of the rest of the drama to its final resolution.
4. Authors use incidents to paint or create the setting of their novels or plays.
This is quite obvious in drama. Each scene in Harvest of Corruption begins with a description of the place, time and, in some cases, atmosphere of that particular episode.
So when we meet Ogeyi and Aloho at the former’s residence for the first time, we quickly discover much about sanitation in Jabu and its suburbs.
All the playwright does is to tell us that Ogeyi lives near a huge rubbish dump.
There is, therefore, so much about setting to be gleaned from incidents.
You can use this knowledge to provide killer points in your Literature essays.
4. Incidents show us a lot about characters
Trust an incident in the novel or play to give you much to chew on about at least, one particular character.
I am going to give you a good example of how an incident can give you enough points to write a complete Literature essay on a character,
You see, when I decided to tackle the character and role of Naa Yomo, I chose to focus much (not all) of my attention on the visit Kabria and Vickie pay to Maa Tsuru’s family house.
FYI. This is in Chapter 10 of the novel Faceless.
It becomes quite easy to learn a great deal about a character as they engage in a conversation with other characters. And this is what Naa Yomo does.
So, just by paying attention to Naa Yomo in this incident, you can collect a substantial volume of material to write a good essay on the character and role of Naa Yomo in the novel, Faceless.
The same happens in many other instances in any play or novel.
So now you know.
Are you a teacher of Literature?
Do you have some ideas to share? Please do so in a comment below.
Maybe you need more assistance to help your Literature students perform to your satisfaction. You can contact me for free coaching any time.
Are you a student of WASSCE Literature or any other? Did you find this post useful? Please leave a comment below.
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