How to Answer “Relate the Title to the Theme” Questions in Literature

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You must be familiar with the WAEC/WASSCE Literature in English (Poetry) question which asks you to relate the title to the theme.

I want to teach you how to answer this mostly repeated type of WAEC/WASSCE Literature-in-English essay question under Poetry.

It does not really matter whether the type of WASSCE Poetry question falls under African poetry or non-African poetry.

So what type of WAEC/WASSCE Literature-in-English Poetry question are we talking about here?

Here it comes

Relate the title of the poem …. to the theme of ….

A specific example of this very common poetry essay question in succeeding WAEC examinations for decades now is the one below.

Relate the title of the poem Ambush to the theme of frustrated dreams.

Let’s now move straight to talk about how to write a solid essay on the above type of WASSCE Poetry question.  

Please note:The type of WAEC/WASSCE Poetry essay question we are talking about here is similar to the one that says:

Comment on the appropriateness of the title of the poem …

Here then is what a typical elective Literature-in-English candidate/student should be writing in an acceptable WASSCE Poetry essay when they come face to face with this type of question.

Key elements of a poetry essay based on title and theme

1. State the title and the specific theme

Begin your essay by specifically stating the title of the poem in your introductory sentence.

Then quickly connect the title to the stated theme. This is not the time for you to start by beating about the bush. Go straight to the point – that is what I mean.

Here is an example for you.

Ambush” by the Nigerian poet, Gbemisola Adeoti is a poem that speaks about the many obstacles placed in the way of the average Nigerian as they work to achieve their life dreams.

This is a good way to put your best foot forward right from the word go. And one important advantage of this type of opening sentence is that it alerts your examiner to the fact that hey, here is a focused and well-structured essay on its way coming.

And oh, the A or B grade-to-award mindset will quickly begin to take root in the mind of that examiner!

But this is early days yet. So let’s move on.

2. Write your thesis statement to close your first paragraph.

Tell the examiner what you intend doing in your subsequent paragraphs up to the end of your WAEC/WASSCE poetry essay.

For example:

In this essay, I will discuss the relationship between the title of the poem … and the theme of …. In doing this, I will focus my attention on four key issues. These are: how relevant the title is to the theme, how realistic the title … and the theme of … are in terms of the setting, two poetic devices the poet employs, apart from the title, to carry his message across to his audience, and, finally, the poet’s attitude and his concerns.

So this sets the tone for the rest of your essay.

Now, your examiner knows what to look for. You have made his work a lot easier.

And surely, you have made your own extremely easy. Because all you will be doing is refer to your introductory paragraph occasionally as your work to craft a super WAEC-buster essay for this section of your WASSCE Literature-in-English paper.

3. Start and finish your second paragraph

This is the stage you should not waste your words and time on unnecessary stuff.

Begin to relate the title to the theme now. Because this is the only thing that is expected from you as far as this type of question is concerned.

At your level, the safest thing to do is to state here that truly, there is a connection between the title and the stated theme. Briefly say why and move on.

4. Next paragraph

Third paragraph – do the title and the theme truly speak to the real issues on the ground?

In other words, is the poet/persona realistic in his views as far as this particular theme is concerned?

Again, to be on a safer ground, you should simply write to prove that this is true.

Read Also:

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Don’t write this kind of essay ever again.

5. Poetic Techniques for Paragraph Four

State and refer to at least two poetic techniques which are used in the poem to treat the theme in question.

This is where, the TITLE will come in again. The title could be a METAPHOR, IRONY or a simple case of DICTION and IMAGERY.

Let your reader/examiner know this.

Continue by stating clearly how the title in particular evokes the right atmosphere or imagery that goes to support the theme under discussion.

6. Compose a Killer Fifth paragraph

Yes, you can do it.

This is your last paragraph before you write a concluding paragraph.

You need to go back to your first or introductory paragraph to check the agenda you have set for yourself. Find out what area it is that you are yet to touch on. Then come back and do justice to just that.

It is not all that difficult to write a good concluding paragraph. Not in this particular essay; not in any other. Click To Tweet

According to my example, this paragraph must discuss the attitude and concerns of the poet.

Is he emotionally detached from what he is talking about in the poem?

Is his tone serious? What about his mood? His feelings? And his fears or worries? All this will depend on the particular Poem.

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But what you must note is that, you will still need to rely on your chosen poetic devices to explain and support your assertions here.

6. Finish with a solid conclusion paragraph

In fact, contrary to what you may be thinking, it is not all that difficult to write a good conclusion paragraph. Not in this particular essay; not in any other.

So what must you be doing here?

Just go back and take a quick look at your first paragraph. Surely, you will be convinced that you have done justice to whatever you set out to do.

Tell your reader exactly that. Add one or two other interesting details in the body of your essay.


In this essay, I have been discussing the relationship between the title of the poem … and the theme of … As we have seen, the poet has succeeded in treating the theme of … by giving it the most appropriate title. The issues of … that are highlighted in …. (TITLE) are, in fact, real occurrences in …. (SETTING – if appropriate to the specific question and poem). By choosing an appropriate title together with such other poetic devices as …. (THOSE YOU HIGHLIGHTED IN THE ESSAY ONLY), … (POET’S NAME) has largely succeeded in highlighting his views on the theme of … in this poem.

Yes! You have just done it. Congratulations!

Do you have any specific difficulties about Literature essay writing or essay writing in general?

What alternative approach would you like to recommend for dealing with this kind of WAEC/WASSCE Literature-in-English Poetry question? Please let me hear from you.

About Ralph Nyadzi

Ralph is a professional blogger, founder and CEO of RN Digital Media Ent. He spends his day working as an online entrepreneur, e-learning strategist and a test prep coach. If you can't locate him anywhere online doing what he knows how to do best, then check him out on his farm or in the kitchen. He lives in the Central Region of his native country, Ghana.

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