Context Examples


Context refers to the background or details surrounding an event that occurs in literature. Details about the setting, a character's past, or even the time period of the story can help to set the context. Understanding the context can help a reader to better understand and interpret the events of the plot.

Examples of Context:

To fully understand the plot of a story set during the Civil War, the reader must understand something about the context, or something about the Civil War and how it affected families in the United States.

Understanding the Industrial Revolution and the effects on life in England during the 1800s would help a reader to better understand the romantic movement in literature.

Examples from Literature:

A reader should understand something of the conflict between the British and the Irish in the 20th Century to understand this poem by William Butler Yeats, an Irish poet. These two stanzas of the poem are an example:

Easter 1916

I have met them at close of day
Coming with vivid faces
From counter or desk among grey
Eighteenth-century houses.
I have passed with a nod of the head
Or polite meaningless words,
Or have lingered awhile and said
Polite meaningless words,
And thought before I had done
Of a mocking tale or a gibe
To please a companion
Around the fire at the club,
Being certain that they and I
But lived where motley is worn:
All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

Too long a sacrifice
Can make a stone of the heart.
O when may it suffice?
That is Heaven's part, our part
To murmur name upon name,
As a mother names her child
When sleep at last has come
On limbs that had run wild.
What is it but nightfall?
No, no, not night but death;
Was it needless death after all?
For England may keep faith
For all that is done and said.
We know their dream; enough
To know they dreamed and are dead;
And what if excess of love
Bewildered them till they died?
I write it out in a verse-
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

To fully understand Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, the reader must understand something of the context of the Jim Crow South and the discrimination against blacks.

To fully understand George Orwell's Animal Farm, which is a satire of the Russian Revolution and the rise of communism, the reader must understand something about the context of the Russian Revolution and communism in the Soviet Union.

Related Links:
Literary Terms Examples