KOLEC Lesson 28: Elements of Content

KOLEC Lesson 28: Elements of Content



Content is what is conveyed in a literary work. It includes all the main ideas/issues expressed in a work of art. 

It is what is being said or conveyed in a story. It is the subject matter or the topic that is being conveyed in a literary work.



The following are the elements of Content: 

(1) Themes

(2) Conflict

(3) Messages

(4) Lessons/morals 

(5) Philosophy 

Explanation of Elements of Content: 

(1) Theme

By definition, a theme is an idea about life that the author shares with his or her readers/audience. Themes are usually not stated directly in the literary work but they are discovered by the readers. A single literary work may have many themes/ideas.

A theme is a central or dominant idea in a literary work. It is the basic or general idea expressed in the story, or the major topics discussed in the story. Literature is filled with themes expressed in various works of art. 

Common themes in African literature: 

The following are some common themes in African literature: 

Betrayal. The act of going against the agreement you make with someone. For example, a politician can betray his/her voters when he/she is elected to be an MP. 

African traditions. The African ways of life. These involve traditions common to the Africans like worship of gods, superstitions, witchcraft, female circumcision and the like. 

Position of women. This holds that most women in Africa are regarded as inferior sex and men are regarded as the superior sex. 

Corruption. The act of using the public office for private gains. This is also referred to as bribery. For example, a government official can be bribed by a foreign trader to allow the importation of foreign products. 

Racial segregation. This was common during the colonial era and in South Africa under apartheid policy. In some areas, there is still this injustice. 

Colonialism. During colonial Africa, when African countries were still under colonial rule. 

Neo-colonialism. The new form of colonialism refers to the imperialist domination of the independent nations. 

Classes. This happens when the higher class benefits more than the lower class. This leads to the class struggle, and in most cases, the lower class wants to get privileges the higher class is getting from the country's riches. 

Protest. This happens when someone or a group of people or a class stands up to oppose the unfavourable conditions. They always protest against the authority. 

(2) Message

This is what is learned from a literary work. A message we get from the literary work is about our experiences in life. An author typically writes to accomplish one or more of the following purposes; to persuade, to instruct, to inform, to explain, to entertain, to describe, or to tell a story. Through literary work, we get the message related to our experiences about life. 

(3) Conflict

This is the struggle or clash between opposing characters, forces, or emotions.

There are two main categories of conflicts: 

(1) External conflict

In an external conflict, for example, a character struggles against an outside force, which may be another character, society, as a whole, or something in nature. 

(2) Internal conflict 

An internal conflict is a struggle between opposing needs, desires, or emotions within a single character. Many works of art, especially longer ones, contain both internal and external conflicts, and an external conflict often leads to internal problems. 

Types of conflicts in literary works

Generally, there are five types of conflicts in a literary work. They are: 

(1) Economic conflicts. This may involve the conflict between the rich and the poor. 

(2) Social conflict. This may involve the conflict between family, tribes, or races. 

(3) Personal conflict. This involves the conflicts between oneself, that is, internal feelings, desires, ideas, and thoughts of a certain character to himself or herself. 

(4) Political conflicts. These conflicts involve conflicts of political interests like the conflict between political parties, ruling tribes or opposition groups. 

(5) Philosophical conflicts. These are the conflicts of ideas v. ideas, feelings v. feelings or ideologies v. ideologies. 

All these conflicts can be categorized into either internal or external conflicts. 

(4) Lessons (Teachings/Morals) 

These are the teachings the reader get from a literary work. They are usually moral teachings that the literary work convey to the intended audience. 

(5) Philosophy

This is the belief or stance of a writer of a work of art. Since the philosophy seeks the truth and knowledge of reality (life), then the writer shows his/her stance on the kind of work he has written. For example, a writer may have the philosophy that in life, to be prosperous, we need peace and love. 


Elements of Content present the general intention or purpose of the author. Form is what the author uses to deliver his/her desired purpose. It is important to remember that content can be presented in many different forms, and the reader will have different experiences/responses as well.  Thus, it is highly recommended that students should have fuller or complete understanding of both elements of form and content for the better understanding of literary works. 

This course is prepared and offered by: 


Social Media: @mannykachele

Instagram: @manny.english

Call/WhatsApp: 0622009566/0765884936

Email: kacheleonline@gmail.com 

Website:  www.kacheleonline.co.tz

Copyright © 2022, KACHELE ONLINE. All Rights Reserved.

No part of this publication may be reproduced, shared or transmitted in any form without the written permission from KACHELE ONLINE.

ISBN     978-9912-9931-1-2

Emmanuel Kachele

Emmanuel Kachele is a founder and Blogger of KACHELE ONLINE Blog, an educational blog where 'O' Level English - 'OLE', 'A' Level English (ALE) and other related teaching and life skills are shared extensively. This is an online center for all Tanzanian Secondary School English Language students and teachers (Forms I-VI) and all interested English Language learners and teachers worldwide.


Please share your thoughts

  1. This is excellent.I keep learning from you.

Previous Post Next Post