Structuralism and its Impact on Literary Analysis

Introduction: Grand Narratives and their Breach

In literary analysis, structuralism emerged as a significant theoretical approach to understand the underlying structures and principles governing a text's meaning. Traditional literary works often revolved around grand narratives that encompassed moral values, fate, and rustic virtues. However, the outbreak of World Wars shattered these grand narratives, leading to a profound breach and disintegration of societal norms and values.

Victorian Characters: Integration vs. War-induced Disintegration

In Victorian literature, characters were often portrayed as integrated individuals, embodying societal values and norms. However, the experience of war caused a drastic shift in human consciousness. The disintegration caused by war shattered the sense of coherence and stability in people's lives, leading to existential dilemmas and a sense of aloofness and loneliness.

Indifferent Attitude and Existentialism

Post-war literature often celebrated suffering and portrayed an indifferent attitude towards human existence. Themes of aloofness, loneliness, and existentialism emerged as prominent features, reflecting the disillusionment and despair prevalent in the aftermath of the wars.

Structuralism in Literary Analysis: Unraveling Aloofness and Absurdity

Synchronic vs Diachronic Approach

Structuralism advocates for analyzing language and literary works using both synchronic and diachronic methods. The diachronic approach involves studying the historical development of language, providing insights into the evolution of linguistic structures and meanings. On the other hand, the synchronic approach focuses on understanding language in a specific context, disregarding its historical evolution and emphasizing social language use.

Paradigmatic and Syntagmatic Axis

Language operates through two essential axes: the paradigmatic and syntagmatic. The paradigmatic axis refers to the choices of words available within a language, offering various semantic possibilities for expression. Conversely, the syntagmatic axis deals with the arrangement of words in a chain, determining the coherence and flow of a linguistic expression.

La Lang and La Parole

Structuralism distinguishes between "la lang" (language) and "la parole" (speech). "La lang" refers to the overarching system of language, representing the capacity of human communication, while "la parole" denotes individual linguistic expressions, reflecting a person's unique way of using language to convey meaning.

Signifier vs. Signified

In the structuralist view, language consists of signifiers (words, symbols) and signified (meanings). The relationship between the signifier and the signified is arbitrary, established by social conventions rather than inherent connections. Structural analysis delves into these relationships to understand how meanings are constructed and reinforced within a text.


Incorporating structuralism in literary analysis allows us to revisit the structures and principles behind literary works, shedding light on the reinforcement of themes like aloofness and absurdity. By examining language synchronically and diachronically, we gain a comprehensive understanding of linguistic development and social use. The paradigmatic and syntagmatic axes help us explore the choices and arrangement of words, shaping the narrative's coherence. Additionally, distinguishing between "la lang" and "la parole" enables us to delve into both the universal capacity for language and individual expressions within literary texts. Ultimately, analyzing the relationship between signifiers and signifieds deepens our comprehension of the text's underlying meanings and themes. Structuralism continues to be a valuable tool in literary analysis, enriching our interpretation of the complexities of human experiences depicted in literature.

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