How do characterization, setting, and plot contribute to a story's theme?

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Characterization, setting, and plot are all essential elements in the theme of a story. Each of these elements can tell you something about the theme. Perhaps the best way to make this point is to give an extended example. Let me use Sophocles, Oedipus Rex as an example.

The setting of the story is a plague. There is a plague in the city of Thebes and the people are suffering. There is fear and death in the air and the setting shows that something is not quite correct. From this perspective, we can say that the theme is being developed - something unnatural has taken place. There is a transgression in view.

The unfolding of the plot make this point clear as well. There is a sense that there has been a horrible crime. And indeed this is the case. We discover that Oedipus has killed his father and married his mother.

The characterization of Oedipus also adds to this theme of transgression. Oedipus is filled with pride. He thinks that he can solve the problem, when he is the problem. This blindness and arrogance nicely complements the theme.

In conclusion, in all good stories, characterization, setting, and plot develop the theme of the story.

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How do characterization and setting contribute to a story's or poem's overall theme?

This is a great question. Characterization, setting and plot all have a profound effect on a poem or story. For one thing, these set up reader expectations.

The best way to illustrate this is through one of the most famous works in Western literature, Sophocles's Oedipus Rex.

Right from the opening scene, we can tell that the story is going to be one that is filled with tragedy. We see the suffering of the city of Thebes and the pain of the people. There is a plague and it eats away at the city. This setting sets the stage. In other words, it directs the mind of the reader to expect the worst.

Characterization also direct the expectation of the reader. When we see Oedipus enter into the work, we quickly realize that for all his courage and intelligence that he is powerful to help his people. Moreover as we see the tragedy unfold, we begin to get the feel that that he is part of the problem. At the end, our worst fears are confirmed. Oedipus's pride all along led to his downfall.

In short, setting and characterization have a huge role in reader expectation.

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