efinition of Context

Context is the background, environment, setting, framework, or surroundings of events or occurrences. Simply, context means circumstances forming a background of an event, idea or statement, in such a way as to enable readers to understand the narrative or a literary piece. It is necessary in writing to provide information, new concepts, and words to develop thoughts.

Whenever writers use a quote or a fact from some source, it becomes necessary to provide their readers some information about the source, to give context to its use. This piece of information is called context. Context illuminates the meaning and relevance of the text, and may be something cultural, historical, social, or political.

Examples of Context in Literature

Example #1: A Tale of Two Cities (by Charles Dickens)

Dickens begins his novelA Tale of Two Cities, in 1770, by describing the release of Doctor Manette from Bastille, before taking the story to 1793 and early 1794. In this time span, the narrative covers a broad story. In a larger view, this novel begins in 1757, while its final scene looks forward to the situation of the post-revolutionary Paris.

This story has a historical context, which Dickens has organized around various events that occurred during the French Revolution. He has drawn historical features from major events, including the fall of Bastille, the September Massacres, and the Reign of Terror. This backdrop is the story’s context.

Example #2: Animal Farm (by George Orwell)

George Orwell felt disillusioned by Soviet Communism, and its revolution during his time. In the phenomenal novel, Animal Farm, Orwell has expressed himself by using satire through the allegorical characters of Old Major and Boxer; relating them to the Russian Revolution and its characters. Orwell uses animals to explain history and context of Soviet Communism, some of which relate to party leaders. For instance, the pig Napoleon represents Joseph Stalin, and Snowball represents Leon Trotsky. In fact, Orwell uses this fable for political and aesthetic reasons, following the Russian Revolution as its context.