Analyzing Theme
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  • 1. Analyzing ThemeAnalyzing Theme
  • 2. What exactly is this elusive thingWhat exactly is this elusive thing called theme?called theme? • The theme of a fable is its moral.The theme of a fable is its moral. • The theme of a parable is itsThe theme of a parable is its teaching.teaching. • The theme of a novel likeThe theme of a novel like CocktailCocktail Hour under the Tree of ForgetfulnessHour under the Tree of Forgetfulness is the view it presents about life.is the view it presents about life.
  • 3. You DecideYou Decide The theme is not intended to teach orThe theme is not intended to teach or preach. In fact, it is not presented directlypreach. In fact, it is not presented directly at all. You extract it from the characters,at all. You extract it from the characters, action, and setting that make up the story.action, and setting that make up the story. In other words, you must figure out theIn other words, you must figure out the theme yourself.theme yourself.
  • 4. Theme is your connectionTheme is your connection The Writer's task is to communicate on a commonThe Writer's task is to communicate on a common ground with the Reader.ground with the Reader. As the Reader you find that common groundAs the Reader you find that common ground through seeing similarities between your life andthrough seeing similarities between your life and the story. Although the particulars of yourthe story. Although the particulars of your experience may be different from the details ofexperience may be different from the details of the story, the general underlying truths behindthe story, the general underlying truths behind the story may be just the connection that boththe story may be just the connection that both you and the writer are seeking.you and the writer are seeking.
  • 5. There are many ways to view theThere are many ways to view the themetheme • The theme is the controlling idea orThe theme is the controlling idea or central insight.central insight. • It is the author's underlying meaning orIt is the author's underlying meaning or main idea that he is trying to convey.main idea that he is trying to convey. • The theme may be the author's thoughtsThe theme may be the author's thoughts about a topic or view of human nature.about a topic or view of human nature. • The theme may be a universal truthThe theme may be a universal truth embedded in the story.embedded in the story.
  • 6. What theme is NOTWhat theme is NOT Theme is not the topic of the story.Theme is not the topic of the story. Love, death, revenge, and war are notLove, death, revenge, and war are not literary themes. They are topics writers tellliterary themes. They are topics writers tell stories about.stories about.
  • 7. However…However… ……thethe pointpoint that a story makes about one ofthat a story makes about one of these topics can be a theme.these topics can be a theme. Theme is the main point of a story, theTheme is the main point of a story, the central meaning the story conveys to us.central meaning the story conveys to us.
  • 8. Here are a few things to keep in mindHere are a few things to keep in mind about theme:about theme: • While a topic can be expressed in a word or phrase, a theme needs aWhile a topic can be expressed in a word or phrase, a theme needs a whole sentence to make its point.whole sentence to make its point. • All of the details in the story should point to and support this theme. If theyAll of the details in the story should point to and support this theme. If they don't, then it is likely that you are substituting your personal view on thedon't, then it is likely that you are substituting your personal view on the topic for the author's.topic for the author's. • A theme is a larger idea expressed through a story, and so your statementA theme is a larger idea expressed through a story, and so your statement of theme should not center on the characters but on theof theme should not center on the characters but on the ideaidea that they andthat they and the story convey. Otherwise it ends up being a summary of the story ratherthe story convey. Otherwise it ends up being a summary of the story rather than a statement of theme.than a statement of theme. • Remember that the theme is an idea that is expressed through theRemember that the theme is an idea that is expressed through the story but can be applied to the larger world.story but can be applied to the larger world. • Complex stories can contain several themes.Complex stories can contain several themes.
  • 9. Finding the ThemeFinding the Theme Here are some ways to uncover the theme in a story:Here are some ways to uncover the theme in a story: • Check out the title. Sometimes it tells you a lot about the theme.Check out the title. Sometimes it tells you a lot about the theme. • Notice repeating patterns and symbols. Sometimes these lead you toNotice repeating patterns and symbols. Sometimes these lead you to the theme.the theme. • What allusions are made throughout the story?What allusions are made throughout the story? • What are the details and particulars in the story? What greaterWhat are the details and particulars in the story? What greater meaning may they have?meaning may they have? • Remember that theme, plot, and structure are inseparable, all helpingRemember that theme, plot, and structure are inseparable, all helping to inform and reflect back on each other. Also, be aware that a themeto inform and reflect back on each other. Also, be aware that a theme we determine from a story never completely explains the story. It iswe determine from a story never completely explains the story. It is simply one of the elements that make up the whole.simply one of the elements that make up the whole.
  • 10. How do I know if I’m right?How do I know if I’m right? Right does not really apply here.Right does not really apply here. Keep in mind our focus on valid interpretations;Keep in mind our focus on valid interpretations; your theme is a credible one if it can beyour theme is a credible one if it can be supported by evidence from the textsupported by evidence from the text.. • The details of the story should make sense inThe details of the story should make sense in terms of your theme; if you have to work tooterms of your theme; if you have to work too hard to make them fit, then your theme ishard to make them fit, then your theme is probably more your perspective than theprobably more your perspective than the author's.author's.