Friday, December 11, 2015 | By: Furqon Abdi

Intrinsic Elements of Prose

Rene Wellek dan Austin Warren, in their Theory of Literature, define intrinsic analysis as “the interpretation and analysis of the works of literature themselves” (1977:139). Just like Poetry, Prose as one of a literature works also has these kinds of elements which are quite different from poems, of course.

The following are some intrinsic elements of prose I have been studied, related to the literature work once I analyze using Antonio Gramsci's Theory of Hegemony:
  • Theme
Theme is the main idea of a story. It must represent the whole part of the story as it is a basic development of a whole story. From reading the whole story, it can be easy to reveal the theme of the novel.
Brown and Olmsted in Language and Literature mentioned that:
The term theme is used in several different ways in literary criticism. Sometimes it means the ‘subject’ of the work, what it is “about”. More often it refers to some central preposition, or set of ideas, which the author presumably had in mind and around which he built his poem or story or play (1962:222).
  • Setting
William Flint Thrall and Addison Hibbard in their A Handbook to Literature said that ”setting: the physical, and sometimes spiritual background against which the action of a narrative (novel, drama, short story, poem) take place” (1960:413).

William Henry Hudson in his An Introduction to the Study of Literature stated that two kinds of setting as “We may therefore distinguish two kind of setting, the social and the material” (1913:158).
Hudson clearly described that social setting is about:
Thus we have novels of the sea and of military life; of the upper classes, the middle classes, the lower classes: of industrial life, commercial life, artistic life, clerical life, and so on... Frequently, of course, the local type of character is presented amid its natural surroundings, but often its peculiarities are brought out by the device of transplanting it into another and contrasted environment (159).
  • Character and Characterization
David Bergman in The Heath Guide to Literature noted that “in fiction, the performers of the actions are called character in which the performer may be a person or a thing” (1992: 115).

While Thrall and Hibbard in A Handbook to Literature said that character is “a brief descriptive sketch of a personage who typifies quality” (1960:79).

There are two kinds of character Protagonist and Antagonist. Michael Meyer in The Bedford Introduction to Literature said that protagonist is “the central character who engages our interest and empathy” (1990:44). He also determined that the antagonist character is “the force that opposes the protagonist” (1960:44). Roberts and Jacobs in Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing said that “the protagonist to the central action, moves against an antagonist (‘the opposing actor’) (1998:153).

Another literature critic, Laurence Perrine in Story and Structure, divides characters into two kinds, flat and round character and dynamic and static character. She mentioned that “flat characters are characterized by one or two traits, they can be summed up in a sentence, and round characters are complex and many sided” (1988:68). She also said that dynamic character “undergoes a permanent change in some aspects of character, personality or outlook” (1988:70)

Besides character, there is also characterization. It is described as the way the narrator describes and presents the characters in the story. Thrall and Hibbard said that “the creation of the images of these imaginary persons so credible that they exist for the reader as real within limits of the fiction is called characterization” (1960:79).
  • Plot
Plot is an important element of literary work. Plot is the logical interaction of the various thematic elements of a text which lead to a change of the situation of the story. One of the most popular parts of plot in a fiction is conflict. Without conflict, there will be no story.

Conflict, based on the book from Perrine, Story and Structure, is “a clash of actions, ideas, desires, or wills” (1988:42). Robert and Jacobs added that conflict is “the controlling impulse in a connected pattern of causes and effects” (1998:105).

There is external and internal conflict in a fiction. Meyer said that external conflict “may place the protagonist in opposition to another individual, nature, or society” (1990:45). He also said that the internal conflict is “in such a case some moral or psychological issue must be resolved within protagonist” (1990:45).


Bergman, David. The Heath Guide to Literature (3rd Edition). D C Heath & Co, 1992.
Brown, Wentworth K., Sterling Pitkin Olmsted. Language and Literature. Harcourt, Brace & World, 1962.
Hudson, William Henry. An Introduction to the Study of Literature. Second edition enlarged. London: George G. Harrap & Company, 1913.
Meyer, Michael. The Bedford Introduction to Literature (2nd Edition). Bedford Books of St. Martin's Press, 1990.

Perrine, Laurence. Story and Structure (7th Edition). Harcourt College Pub, 1988.  

Roberts, Edgar V., Henry E. Jacobs. Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing (5th Edition). Prentice Hall, 1998.
Thrall, William Flint, Addison Hibbard. A Handbook to Literature. New York: Odyssey Press, 1960.

Wellek, Rene and Austin Warren. Theory of Literature. 3rd edtition. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1963.


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