What Is Theme? Feature Menu Theme Recurring Themes Identifying the Theme Characters and Plot Images Your Turn
Theme This student has just discovered the theme of the story he’s reading. “What does it all mean?” We often ask this about stories or novels we read. When we ask this question, we’re thinking about theme.
Theme The theme of a story is an important truth that the story reveals about life. Theme gives a story its power. Friendship can’t be bought. Never give up, even when you’re faced with terrible odds. Heroes can be found in unlikely places.
Theme The theme is not the plot. A young farm boy is offered the chance of a lifetime, but he’s afraid to leave behind his familiar life. The theme is not the subject. fear of the big city The theme is the special message that a reader takes away from a story—a complete thought stated in a sentence. Facing your fears is the only way to overcome them.
Theme Quick Check Study this story plot. What is the subject of the story? What is one possible theme? Jamal, a drummer, and Fred, a guitarist, are best friends. They each enter a talent contest. The prize is a gift card to a local music store. Tensions arise because Jamal and Fred are in competition with each other. Then one day they have an idea. They decide to work on a song and perform it together. Jamal and Fred win the contest and happily share the gift card. [End of Section]
Recurring Themes Since themes are general ideas about life, similar themes often show up in different stories. For example, you’ve probably read more than one story that has a message about the importance of perseverance—of never giving up.
Recurring Themes Ideas that occur in stories from different times and cultures are called recurring themes. Seeing the beauty inside will reveal the outer beauty.
Recurring Themes Recurring themes are based on ideas that have always been important to people. • sacrifice • family • friendship
Recurring Themes Quick Check In each pair, identify the item that might be a recurring theme. • the power of love / Love can be found in small acts. • 2. Dying often makes the way for new life. / death • 3. courage / Sometimes it take courage to do the right thing. • 4. Our traditions are part of who we are. / importance of heritage [End of Section]
Identifying the Theme Writers don’t usually state themes directly. They want you to infer themes from • the way the characters change • the discoveries the characters have made by the end of the story
Identifying the Theme Think about the story “The Tortoise and the Hare.” • How do the characters change? • What do they learn? • How do these questions help you discover the theme?
Identifying the Theme In the beginning of the story, the rabbit is boastful. After he loses the race to the tortoise, the rabbit learns that being fast is not enough; it is also important to be determined. The tortoise remains slow and steady throughout the story, and he wins the race. The theme might be “A goal can be reached with slow, steady effort and determination.”
Identifying the Theme Quick Check What is Reggie discovering in this passage? That night his father arrived home late as usual. For the first time, Reggie noticed how tired and drawn his face looked, how low his shoulders drooped from fatigue. He forgot, for a moment, about the long absences. He forgot how angry he was that his father had missed his concert. Saying nothing, Reggie fixed a snack, set it down next to his drowsing father, and went quietly upstairs. How does his discovery hint at the theme? [End of Section]
Characters and Plot 3. Climax 2. Rising Action 4. Falling Action Plot 1. Exposition 5. Resolution The theme of a work • is usually revealed through the actions or thoughts of the characters • develops along with the plot of the story Theme
Characters and Plot Use what you know about plot and characters to help you identify the theme. For example, one element of plot is conflict—the struggle or clash between opposing characters, forces, or emotions.
Characters and Plot When characters face a conflict, they are often forced to make a decision about what is most important to them. This decision may point to the theme of the story.
Characters and Plot Quick Check What might Tyra’s conflict reveal about the theme? Her mother always emphasized how important science was. She’d determined years ago that Tyra should one day become a chemist, just like her. Tyra liked science class just fine, but she was happiest when she was painting. In fact, her dearest wish was to go to art school. She wasn’t sure how—or even if—she could ever tell her mother about this dream. [End of Section]
Images By using descriptive language and details, a writer can create powerful pictures, or images. The old room was dimly lit by a shaft of light from outside. He could see dust particles floating there. So light and so quiet, they announced the room’s vast emptiness. How long had it been? The old room was dimly lit by a shaft of light from outside. He could see dust particles floating there. So light and so quiet, they announced the room’s vast emptiness. How long had it been?
Images Images will often give you hints about theme, too. The old room was dimly lit by a shaft of light from outside. He could see dust particles floating there. So light and so quiet, they announced the room’s vast emptiness. How long had it been? In this passage, the images hint that the theme might have to do with a lost past, feelings of emptiness, or loneliness.
Images Which images of weather would point to a theme about conflict or anger? flashing peaceful gentle breeze driving rain calm and clear whipping winds raging storm crack of thunder violent warm sun
Images Quick Check Kayla watched her aunt and cousin waving goodbye, getting smaller and smaller as the train pulled away. As the speed increased, she listened to the repetitive sounds of the train’s movement. She felt the rails passing beneath her in a steady, rhythmic thumping. She thought about the awesome power of the locomotive. But she did not think about her destination. What can you guess about the theme based on the images in this passage? [End of Section]
Analyze Theme Your Turn Use a chart like the one below to help you determine the themes of two of your favorite movies or stories.
Analyze Theme Your Turn The chart below lists three examples of subjects and themes. Without thinking about any particular story, come up with three additional sets of possible subjects and themes.
Analyze Theme Your Turn With a partner, think of some themes you’ve encountered in books, movies, plays, and comics. What are the three most common recurring themes? What’s an example of each? [End of Section]