Theme Brush Up

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What is THEME?
• In any piece of writing—a story, novel, poem, or
essay—the writer addresses a subject about the
human experience such as…
• death, love, youth, learning, grief,
setting goals, desire, tragedy,
loneliness, faith, hope, human
kindness, dependence on
technology, destruction of nature,
war, childhood, guilt, joy
A THEME statement gets a little
more specific.
It describes what in particular the
writer is saying about an aspect of
being human or human behavior.
Examples of thematic statements
• Knowledge can be used for destructive ends.
• For the benefit of society, sometimes an individual’s
needs must be sacrificed.
• Sometimes we realize what we dreamed of for our
future is not what’s best for us.
• Falling in love can often repair the emotional
damages people have suffered in the past.
• Through loneliness we often gain a greater
understanding of ourselves.
• When under pressure, people often make choices
that can have long-lasting and painful consequences.
Theme is NOT…
• a summary of the plot
• about the specific characters in the
story
• our personal opinion of a story
Theme is NOT…
• always a lesson, moral, or piece of
advice about life
• This kind of theme applies more to a lot
of kids’ books—where the writer’s
purpose is to teach children a lesson.
Theme is NOT… always a lesson
• In English III, we’re reading adult
literature. Often, writers make
observations about dark sides of human
behavior or the difficulties of life.
• So in this class resist always thinking a
theme statement should start with…
• People should always ___________
• Don’t _______________
• Always remember to
_________________
Theme is TRICKIER with more adult fiction
• Sophisticated and skillful
writers don’t do this with
their writing:
AUTHOR
THEME
• As readers we must be
Sherlock-esque and look
closely at the story, the
characters’ actions and
dialogue, and—of course—
the ending and do some
heavy duty thinking to
determine a work’s theme.
Example: Star Wars (Episode IV)
What is a central theme of Star Wars: A New
Hope?
WRONG ANSWER:
A central theme of Star Wars is Luke Skywalker
trying to rescue Princess Leia and blow up the
Death Star.
AAAGHHH!
THIS IS PLOT—NOT THEME!
Example: Frozen
What is a central theme of the film Frozen?
WEAK ANSWERS:
• A central theme of the film Frozen is the idea
that sisters face challenges.
• A central theme of the film Frozen is the idea
that we all have strengths and weaknesses.
Example: Star Wars (Episode IV)
What is a central theme of Star Wars: A New
Hope?
POSSIBLE STRONG ANSWER:
• A central theme of Star Wars is the idea that
defeating evil often requires the commitment
of a community and not just one person.
Oh, that’s good!
Example: Frozen
What is a central theme of Frozen?
POSSIBLE STRONG ANSWER:
• A central theme of Frozen is the idea that
healthy family relationships often require us
to be honest about our personal weaknesses
and to make sacrifices that benefit others.
What’s important about a
CENTRAL Theme?
• Think about a party that has a theme.
Almost all items at the party will connect
to the CENTRAL theme.
What’s important about a
CENTRAL Theme?
• A CENTRAL theme can be applied to the story
as a whole—including the ending
• A theme that applies only to one moment in
the plot or a single paragraph is not a
CENTRAL theme.
A story’s ENDING is very important when
figuring out the CENTRAL theme.
• If at the end of Star Wars, Princess Leia fell in love
with Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker’s x-wing fighter got
zapped, and the Rebels failed to blow up the Death
Star …the story would have a very different central
theme.
A story’s ENDING is very important when
figuring out the CENTRAL theme.
• If Frozen ended with Anna as a dead piece of ice,
then the movie has a different—and much darker—
central theme.
Theme Practice
• Think of a movie you’ve seen that many of
your classmates have probably seen as well.
• With a partner, identify a central theme that
applies to the movie and write a theme
statement.
• Use a complete sentence. It can start as
follows:
The central theme of _____________ is…
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