Is there an idiomatic prepositional phrase meaning the same as 'with the help of something', the something being a theory which helps to shed light on the reasons for certain events found in a novel?

What I have in mind –very specifically– is interpreting a novel (the events in Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart) with the help of a general theory of society and human culture (René Girard's 'mimetic theory'; René Girard, 1923-2015, was a French anthropologist who taught at Stanford University).

In French, the phrase would be "lire Things Fall Apart à la lumière de la théorie mimétique de René Girard".

I have looked on the Internet but only found 'in (the) light of something' (with the definite article, UK, without, US), which –wrongly– seems to be exactly what I need since the words the English idiomatic prepositional phrase is made of are so close to the French ones.

Wrongly, though, because, from what I could gather from the trustworthy online dictionaries (I mean Cambridge, Oxford, Collins, Macmillan, Merriam-Webster) the meaning of 'in (the) light of something' is 'because of something' and not 'with the help of something'.

Merriam-Webster has two meanings for the phrase 'in light of something', one of which is nearly what I am after:

while thinking about (something that affects the way one sees or understand things)

You should think about their advice in light of your own needs.

You should read the story in light of your own experiences.

Only nearly because the 'light' that is meant there is a 'special angle' –a spotlight– and not the 'general theory' –a floodlight– I have in mind.

Hence my question, again: Is there an idiomatic prepositional phrase meaning 'with the help of something' in this particular context?

  • applying? I would use that, but it's not a phrase, nor idiomatic, and too academic. Think of it.
    – Kris
    Jun 24, 2016 at 6:02
  • "In light of" means to consider things focused on (informed by) that referenced thing/idea. It's not really "because of" except in specific overlapping cases.
    – The Nate
    Jun 24, 2016 at 18:24
  • Is "aided by", "with aid from", or "with help of" not the answer you seem? I'm trying to understand your question; It seems you answered it while asking, to me.
    – The Nate
    Jun 24, 2016 at 18:27

3 Answers 3


through the lens of

This phrase doesn't exactly mean "with the help of", but it suits the particular purpose you're looking for. It's a metaphoric use of lens, and conveys a more active process, as if the novel were being seen and interpreted from within Girard's theory, rather than his theory simply "shedding light on" or "illuminating" the novel.

What I have in mind is interpreting the events in Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart through the lens of René Girard's 'mimetic theory' of society and human culture.

  • That's what the user Gnawme had suggested in his comment.
    – user58319
    Jun 26, 2016 at 3:46
  • @user58319: yes, we'd independently come up with the same solution. However, a comment is not an answer, even though it can (should!) add helpful information. Also, this site's answers are available through search engines for use by future researchers too. Interestingly, if you google "Things Fall Apart through the lens of", you'll find a surprising number have used this very expression! Jun 26, 2016 at 4:30

Is there an idiomatic prepositional phrase meaning 'with the help of something' in this particular context?

Help lends an advantage, yes?

... from the vantage of ...

Noun 1. vantage - place or situation affording some advantage (especially a comprehensive view or commanding perspective)

Based on WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection. © 2003-2012 Princeton University, Farlex Inc.


I think in light of isn't as far off as you fear. But i agree that from the perspective of or informed by or through the lens of all work.

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