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Theme in Literature

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James Tilton

on 15 August 2016

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Transcript of Theme in Literature

What is this book about?
There are really two answers
to that question.
Those answers are
If your answer focused
on Zooks, Yooks, and
butter, then your answer
probably was more
focused on plot.
If your answer focused
on the way people allow small
differences to become big
fights, then your answer
was more focused on theme.
Plot answers the question...

Theme answers the question...
What happened in the story?
What is the bigger truth
of the story?
Basics of theme...
Theme is like the moral of the story. It's
the message or meaning.
Theme is bigger than just one story or one character
Theme is different than simply saying what happened in the story
Theme and Subject
Theme is different than subject. The subject of "The Butter Battle Book" might be arguments or getting along. Theme is an opinion statement about a subject. It is always a complete sentence.
Theme is the larger truth of a book stated in a complete sentence, e.g. "Friendship is more important than power."
Subject is a word or two that might be a topic, but not a truth, e.g. friendship.
Theme applies to the world or people or life as a whole.
Literary works often can contain many themes.
Themes are as dependent on the reader as the author. Finding a theme requires the reader to piece together parts of the text which develop a similar idea.
The Reader and Theme
Look for changes in the main character.
Watch for clear statements of theme, especially at the end of the book.
Examine the title.
Look for conflict.
Ways to find a theme...
1. Look for changes in the main character
If these changes are good, the reader should probably
try to copy his/her actions or thoughts.
If these changes are bad, the reader should probably
avoid his/her actions or thoughts.
Ask yourself, "What would I learn about humanity if this main character represented everyone else?"
Sometimes, often toward the beginning or end of the book, the author will have a character clearly tell us a theme.
Look for something like "Life is..." or "Love is..." or "People are..."
Think about Forrest Gump!
2. Watch for clear statements of theme...
Sometimes, the author will give us a clue as to one of the main themes in the title, like in the following works...
To Kill a Mockingbird
Pride and Prejudice
Of Mice and Men
The Red Badge of Courage
The Catcher in the Rye
The Call of the Wild
3. Look at the title...
4. Look for conflict...
Man vs. Man, Man vs. Nature, Man vs. Society, Man vs. Himself
Just identifying the conflict can help you find the theme sometimes.
A Quick Review
What is the definition of theme?
What is the difference between plot and theme?
What is the difference between subject and theme?
What question does theme answer?
What four clues can help you find theme?
Class Practice
What is the plot of this story?
What is a theme of the story?
Where do you see this theme in the text?
presents the idea that
by portraying
(textual evidence)
How to Write a
Killer Theme Statement
In the Butter Battle Book, he presents
the idea that arms races are pointless by
portraying the comical escalation between
the Yooks and Zooks.
In his book, Dr. Suess presents
the idea that friendship is better than aggression by portraying the peaceful reconciliation of the Yooks and Zooks as an event worthy of celebration.
In The Butter Battle Book, Dr. Suess presents the idea that people have more in common than they think.
In The Butter Battle Book, Dr. Suess presents the idea of competition by portraying the conflict between the Yooks and the Zooks.
Based only on this story, what do you think Dr. Suess would think about abortion?
Full transcript