Authors use complex literary elements in order to relay their messages to the readers of the story. These elements serve as the visual and emotional connection between the thoughts and feelings of the author and his naïve reader. Setting, theme and point of view draw on the reader’s ability or inability to create a picture of what the story is about. Setting can be defined as time and place. It represents one of the most important parts of the story, and helps the reader realize the emotions evoked from the story. It is a necessary part of a story to make it a complete experience for a reader. Setting is an integral ingredient to any story or literary work. In some fiction however, it is not only essential but it also plays a vital role in the development of the plot. In these works it is necessary for the author to paint a clear picture and provide background of the setting.
The point of view allows the reader to observe the thoughts of the characters. When a story is told in the first person, the reader plunges inside the head of the narrator and hears what he or she thinks and feels. The third person omniscient allows the reader, in a sense, to play God and hear the thoughts of all of the characters. These different approaches to the thoughts of the characters create different feelings in the reader. The theme of a fable is its moral. A parable presents its theme through teaching a lesson. The theme of a piece of fiction is its view about life and how people behave.
In fiction, the theme is not intended to teach or preach. In fact, it is not presented directly at all. You extract it from the characters, action, and setting that make up the story. In other words, you must figure out the theme yourself.
In William Carlos Williams’ The Use of Force, and Eudora Welty’s A Visit of Charity, the authors employ setting, point of view and theme to properly get their message across. The way in which these two authors used these devices to convey their thoughts appears to be different, but in actuality, is the same.
Williams draws a broad picture in his short story by merely including minute details about where his story takes place. He states “…we have her in the kitchen where it is warm. It is very damp here sometimes.”(MLM p. 80) This simple description allows the reader to visualize the setting, and also to make his or her own inferences about how the house appears. The reader might assume that the house is in a partially run-down state since it is described as being quite damp. Further, this single detail introduces the idea that the dampness might be to blame for the child’s illness. A creative imagination lets the reader develop his or her own idea of where the story takes place when given sparse cues.
Welty’s short story, on the other hand, gives a decent amount of descriptive passages in order to create the stage for the story. The hospital, the hall, and the women’s room are all described in great detail. Such descriptive language enables the reader to envision the scene, but still allows for some divergence of the author’s original intent. In contrast, Williams creates his setting to make the reader more aware of the fact that the setting in Welty’s story is more important to the theme.
The theme of The Use of Force does not hinge on the reader grasping the setting vividly, but on the actions occurring. A Visit of Charity differs slightly in that the women’s actions are better explained by their surroundings. The setting can have a profound effect on what the reader thinks of the story. It may allow the reader to go more in-depth into what the author is saying or it may not be a factor.
Point of view is another element of good literature. The point of view of the person telling the story lets the reader in on things the characters are thinking, or the characters themselves tell the reader what they are thinking. Point of view also sets the stage for the reader to identify opposing sides in the impending conflict. In The Use of Force, Williams chose to write in the first person perspective of the doctor. The doctor tells the reader about the story and his feelings pertaining to it. One does not get to read the other characters’ thoughts unless they are blatantly expressed by the narrator.
This lack of outside opinion from other characters is useful in William’s story. The reader is able to know the thoughts of the doctor as the protagonist and his personal struggle to discover what he and the girl both already know. This one-sided approach causes more tension within the conflict. It shows the true struggle between the doctor and the girl without the diluted effects of other characters extraneous thoughts. The reader senses the feeling of tension and nervous waiting, but he must infer it.
A Visit of Charity’s point of view allows the reader to experience the emotions of the characters involved. The third person omniscient, or “all knowing” point of view makes the story slightly easier to read. The analysis of the story flows easier because the thoughts and emotions of all the characters are told to the reader. The reader can not infer what they are thinking, because the he has already been told. Although easier to read, this approach to point of view dulls the story because all the information is directly presented to the reader. There is no in-depth analysis to critique. The author puts everything out there for who ever wants it. There are not multiply interpretations of the story because much of the interpreting has been done by the author herself.
A story consists of more than a bunch of words jotted down in the hopes of entertaining its audience. A story, no matter how insignificant, always possesses a central idea. Although it is often buried beneath layers of support, the main idea still remains. The theme of both these stories is about the fears that people have of and for other people. The doctor in The Use of Force seems both frightened by what he knows he is going to see, and for the child that is hiding her deathly secret. Their fear drives them to act as they do. The doctor forces the child’s mouth open, out of his fear that she is very sick and he possesses the means to help her.
Marian acts as she does with the older women because they scare her. Rightfully so, they act as they do out of their own scary fate. They were left at this hospital to live out their final days. Their almost senile actions come from them knowing what is awaiting them. Marian can not relate to these women on any level; therefore, she is frightened by them. This theme is relatively forthcoming because of the authors’ choice of wording. They both tell the reader that the interaction of the characters stems from their own fears.
There exist literary elements that add to a story in some instances and detract from the story in others. The author determines their effective use by the way he places his words. Also the way the reader interprets something weighs heavily on the authors’ word choice. This comes about through the use of setting, point of view, and theme. They are powerful elements that are often subtle.