Thursday, November 13, 2008

More About Theme

More About Theme


Theme in the Short StoryAll good stories have themes. This is the main idea of the story, the discovery about life that we take away from the story. Here are some steps to take to identify a story’s theme:
1. Think about how the main character has changed in the course of the story and what the character has learned. Sometimes what the character has learned can be stated as the theme.
Self-centeredness: “If you are self-centered, you can hurt yourself as well as others.”

2. Think about the title of the story and its meaning.

3. Identify some important passages in the story and think about what they suggest to you about our lives.

Or put in another way. . .

1. Did the main character change? How?

2. What is the title of the story? Does it give a clue about the theme?

3. What do important parts of the story suggest about its message?

[Elements of Literature, First Course, Holt, Rinehart, Winston, 2000, p. 23]

Often, literary themes are suggested by just one word or one phrase. However, the theme is not the same as the subject. The theme is the idea that the writer wishes to convey about a particular subject, so to complete a theme, you would make a statement about a subject. Following are the subjects of some common themes in literature:

Don't forget to state a theme as a complete sentence.
Topics for Themes:
community, compromise,
curiosity,These are topics for themes, not themes.
courage, death, determination, dishonesty,
These are topics for themes, not themes.
good vs. evil,
These are topics for themes, not themes.
human rights,
a journey to greater wisdom,
These are topics for themes, not themes.
relationships, responsibility,
These are topics for themes, not themes.

Theme: the message about life or human nature that is “hidden” in the story that the writer tells. Lengthy writings may have several themes. [Write Source 2000, 1995, p. 128; 1999, p. 344]

Many works of literature suggest a question or lesson about life – a theme. To discover the theme of a work, look for patterns of events or contrasts between characters. For instance, if one character is greedy while another is generous, you can conclude that generosity is the subject of one theme of the work. If the greedy character comes to a bad end, the work may teach a lesson about greed.
[Prentice Hall Writing and Grammar: Communication in Action, Bronze Level, p. 257.]

Theme: the message about life or human nature that is “hidden” in the story that the writer tells.
Each short story or novel or movie may have several themes.
The topic of a theme may be given in one word, but a theme itself will be stated in a complete sentence.

Examples: Themes for “Rikki-tikki-tavi”:
Everyone has his or her own natural strengths and abilities. We will be successful and accepted as long as we use those abilities and strengths to benefit our families and communities and not for our own personal advantage.
Sometimes an individual must stand up alone against oppression or injustice.

"The Smallest Dragonboy"
A smaller or weaker person can triumph over those who are larger and stronger if he or she has courage and keeps trying.

"Amigo Brothers"
True friendship can last through difficult trials.
Friendship is more important than winning.

"Little Red and the Hungry Wolf"
Crime doesn't pay.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone --
Each person can make a contribution with his or her own unique talents.

Example for the Reading Log
I am reading The Hiding Place by Corie Ten Boom with John and Elizabeth Sherrill.
Topic: This book is about a kind, generous family who were persecuted (and some killed) by the Nazis during World War II.
Themes: pp. 4-10 Corrie's father is kind and loving to everyone. He hires people who otherwise couldn't get a job. He pays attention to the children. He "forgets" to charge people for the work he does for them. When the family celebrates the one hundredth birthday of their watch shop, nearly everyone from their community comes, not to celebrate the watch shop, but to honor Corrie's father, whom they love.
Theme: If you want to be loved, love others.

Teacher materials: