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Modern texts

Language and structure of modern texts

Language and structure of modern texts

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Language and structure of modern texts

​​In a nutshell

As the literary landscape evolved during the modern period, so did the techniques employed by authors to craft compelling narratives, making it an exciting era to explore. Understanding these linguistic and structural features allows us to unravel the intricate layers of meaning, emotion, and societal commentary woven into the fabric of each text.

Linguistic techniques

In the modern period, authors embraced innovative approaches to storytelling, departing from traditional norms and experimenting with various techniques. These changes gave rise to dynamic narratives that challenged conventional perspectives, reflecting the shifting values and complexities of the rapidly changing world. 

Analysing how language is used in modern texts is a powerful tool that unveils the subtleties behind character development, plot progression, and thematic exploration. By delving into the linguistic techniques, such as dramatic irony, first-person narration, and dialect, we gain insight into characters' perspectives and motivations, experiencing the story through their eyes.

Dramatic irony

Dramatic irony is a powerful literary technique where the audience possesses knowledge that the characters on stage do not, leading to a gap between what the characters believe to be true and what the audience knows to be true. This creates a sense of tension and anticipation, engaging the audience emotionally and intellectually. 


In "An Inspector Calls," the audience is aware of the impending tragedy as Mr. Birling confidently makes predictions about the future. This dramatic irony intensifies the impact of the unfolding events, as the audience witnesses the characters' actions leading toward an inevitable disaster while the characters remain blissfully ignorant of the consequences of their actions.

First-person narrative

First-person narrative is a storytelling mode where the story is narrated by a character using "I" or "we," providing readers with a direct insight into the narrator's thoughts, emotions, and experiences. This narrative style fosters a strong sense of intimacy between the reader and the narrator, allowing readers to develop a profound understanding of the character's motivations and feelings. 


In "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time," Simon Stephens (based on Mark Haddon's novel) employs a first-person perspective, immersing readers in the mind of Christopher, a fifteen-year-old with autism. This narrative style grants readers unique access to Christopher's thought processes, enabling them to experience the world from his perspective and engendering empathy for his challenges and triumphs.

Dialect and sociolect

Dialect and sociolect refer to distinct varieties of language used by specific social groups or regions, reflecting cultural backgrounds, social classes, or geographical locations. In literature, dialect and sociolect are employed to add authenticity to characters, vividly portray their cultural identities, and emphasise social divisions within a narrative. 


In "Blood Brothers," Willy Russell effectively utilises dialect to differentiate between the working-class and upper-class characters. The use of distinct language and sociolect not only adds authenticity to the characters, enabling readers to connect with their backgrounds and circumstances, but also highlights the social divisions and conflicts within the play.


Symbolism is a literary technique where objects, characters, or settings represent deeper meanings and themes beyond their literal significance. Symbolic elements add layers of depth and complexity to the narrative, allowing authors to convey abstract concepts and emotions in a more evocative manner. 


In "Lord of the Flies," the conch shell symbolises order and democracy on the island. As the shell loses its power and influence, it mirrors the disintegration of civilisation and the descent into chaos and savagery. The symbolism of the conch shell underscores the novel's exploration of human nature, power, and the fragility of societal structures.


Allegory is a narrative technique where characters and events symbolically represent real-world concepts or historical events, often used to convey complex ideas and themes in a more accessible and engaging manner. By presenting abstract concepts through concrete and relatable narratives, allegories offer deeper insights into societal issues and human nature. 


In "Animal Farm," George Orwell uses allegory to satirise the Russian Revolution and totalitarian regimes. The animals' uprising against human oppression represents the overthrow of the ruling class and the promise of a utopian society. However, as the pigs gradually assume control, their corruption and manipulation of power mirror the abuse of power by the elite, exemplifying how revolutions can be co-opted and ideals betrayed. The allegorical nature of the novel invites readers to critically reflect on the nature of political systems and the dangers of totalitarian rule.

Structural features

The study of structural features, including foreshadowing, non-linear narration, and allegory, unravels the author's artistic choices and intentions, offering a deeper appreciation of the literary craft. Moreover, comprehending these features enables us to recognise the nuanced themes and underlying messages that authors embed within their works, fostering a greater understanding of societal issues, human nature, and the human condition.


Foreshadowing is a powerful literary technique that authors use to hint or suggest future events in the plot. By dropping subtle clues and hints, writers create a sense of anticipation and tension, captivating the readers and heightening their engagement with the narrative. Foreshadowing allows the audience to make predictions about the story's direction and creates a deeper connection to the characters and their choices. 


In "An Inspector Calls," J.B. Priestley employs foreshadowing brilliantly when the mysterious Inspector utters the phrase, "fire and blood and anguish." This ominous statement foreshadows the impending consequences that the characters will face for their actions, foreshadowing the dark turn the play will take and intensifying the impact of the eventual revelations.

Non-linear narration

Non-linear narration is a narrative structure that deviates from the traditional linear timeline. Instead of following a straightforward chronological order, events are presented out of sequence, creating a unique and captivating reading experience. This technique allows authors to explore multiple perspectives, delve into characters' memories, and build suspense by revealing crucial information at strategic moments. 


In "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time," Mark Haddon skilfully uses non-linear narration to reflect the thought process of the protagonist, Christopher, who has a unique way of perceiving the world due to his autism. As readers follow Christopher's investigation into the dog's death, they encounter flashbacks and digressions that provide a deeper understanding of his mind and emotions, immersing them in his world and fostering empathy for his challenges and triumphs.

Song and chorus

Song and chorus are elements borrowed from Greek drama, used in modern plays to evoke emotions and enhance storytelling. They offer a unique blend of textual and musical elements that contribute to the overall theatrical experience. Songs with recurring musical motifs add an auditory dimension to the performance, fostering emotional connections with the characters and themes. Similarly, the role of the Chorus, as seen in ancient Greek drama, is often assigned to a specific character in modern plays. The Chorus serves as a narrator, commentator, or even a mediator between the characters and the audience, guiding the spectators through the story's emotional and thematic journey. 


In "Blood Brothers" by Willy Russell, the musical motif and the Narrator's role as a Greek chorus heighten the play's tragic elements. The recurring songs serve as a haunting reminder of the inevitability of fate, while the Narrator's presence adds a sense of foreboding, guiding the audience through the tragic events and intensifying their emotional engagement with the story.

Character development through isolation

Character development through isolation is a narrative technique that explores the impact of solitude on a character's psyche and behaviour. When characters find themselves physically or emotionally isolated from society, their experiences, thoughts, and decisions are shaped by their seclusion. This narrative device allows authors to delve deeper into the inner workings of a character's mind, exploring their fears, desires, and personal growth in an intimate manner. 


In "Lord of the Flies" by William Golding, isolation on the deserted island leads to the transformation of characters like Jack, who descends into savagery. The isolation strips away the societal constraints and exposes the innate darkness within human nature, showcasing the destructive potential that lies within each individual when removed from the norms and rules of civilisation.

Repeating refrain

A repeating refrain is a literary device where a phrase or line is repeated throughout a text, emphasising its significance and creating a memorable and impactful effect. By reinforcing key themes or motifs through repetition, authors heighten the overall message and emotional resonance of the work. 


In George Orwell's "Animal Farm," the phrase "Four legs good, two legs bad" is a rallying cry used by the animals to promote equality and resist human oppression. The phrase becomes a mantra that unifies the animal community and symbolises their rebellion against their human masters. However, as the pigs seize power, they manipulate the slogan to maintain control over the other animals, revealing how language can be used as a tool of manipulation and deception, illustrating the dangers of propaganda and rhetoric in shaping public opinion.

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