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What is the theme?

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kel155 | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) Honors

Posted May 19, 2010 at 9:28 AM via web

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What is the theme?

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epollock | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted October 17, 2010 at 5:18 PM (Answer #1)

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A theme is a universal truth about a work of  literature  expressed as a sentence. A work can have many themes not simply one. Some of the themes of "A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings" might be: (1) The life of an individual is both fragile and transient (as evidenced by the sudden recovery of the mortally ill infant [paragraph 4]); (2) Human beings, almost by their very nature, reduce everything to their own levels of comprehension; (3) The curiosity that people show in unusual things, but also their fickleness when the novelty wears thin, and (4) People inevitably introduce adaptation and opportunism for survival (as shown in Pelayo’s accrual of money by exhibiting the angel [paragraph 11])

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lmetcalf | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted September 10, 2010 at 10:05 AM (Answer #1)

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Another important theme is the isolation and meaningless of life in the industrialized world.  Gregor is a traveling salesman who has no time to forge relationships outside his immediate family, and even those prove to be a bit strained.  He hangs up a picure pulled from a magazine because he doesn't have a lady friend.  While he is devoted to his job, he hates it.  He is unappreciated and generally ignored until the one day that he is late.  On that day, his work not only wants to know where he is, they actually show up at his home to find out what is keeping him and threaten immediate dismissal if he doesn't come to work.  He is literally treated like a bug -- like a busy anonymous worker ant. 

Once he becomes a bug, he is isolated by his family and he chooses to isolate himself in his room.  The family barely tolerate him, and only his sister can bear to be in the same room with him for a short period of time.  Out of deference to her, Gregor isolates himself from her by hiding under a sheet and under his bed.  

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readerofbooks | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted October 30, 2011 at 3:26 AM (Answer #1)

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This is a deceptively simple question. A theme, in short, is the main idea of a story. However, you have to keep in mind that stories, especially good ones have many themes, and some of the best stories have two or more themes that may even compete with each other. In this way, it leaves the reader to decide for himself or herself what the theme is. Let me give you an example.

In the tragedy, Antigone, there are many themes. On the one hand, loyalty to family is a theme. This is why Antigone wants to bury her brother even at the expense of the law of Creon. Creon, the ruler of Thebes does not want anyone to buy Polynices, the brother of Antigone, because he attacked the city.

 On the other hand, there is a theme of obeying the laws of the land. So, what should a person do? This is not an easy question. So, here is an example of many themes and in this situation there are two themes that oppose each other.

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Kristen Lentz | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted January 16, 2013 at 3:29 AM (Answer #1)

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'Theme' is a literary term used to convey the central idea or message in a literary text.  The theme is not the same thing as the subject of the text.  For example, the subject of the story "Chicken Little" is a paranoid little chicken, but the theme of that story could be fear or hysteria.  

One of the key points in literary analysis when reading a poem or novel is to be able to identify what the theme is.  Understanding the theme of text is important, because then the reader can make connections to what the author's purpose for writing the text may have been. 

For example, in Macbeth by William Shakespeare, the central character Macbeth murders the king so that he may rule instead.  A central theme of this play is ambition, because the Macbeth's thirst for power causes him to commit terrible acts.  A thematic statement then describes how the theme relates to the specific text; for example: In the play Macbeth, unchecked ambition leads to dire consequences.

Sources:

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garywilson93 | College Teacher | (Level 2) eNoter

Posted May 19, 2010 at 2:56 PM (Answer #2)

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Theme is the main matter of any subject.That deals with the single point of that discription like etc

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kay313 | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 30, 2011 at 2:22 AM (Answer #2)

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The subject or idea

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michbarr | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 21, 2011 at 2:26 PM (Answer #2)

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One theme is Appearances can make one more favorable and believable. In the story the angle does not look the part of an angle having "[...] huge buzzard wings[...]" instead of the stereotypical heavenly white dove wings, his appearance causes the villagers to deem him unpromisisng but when they see a spider woman and "[...] the truth of her horror [...]" of her condition they believe everything she says. This theme is present in realistic circumstances. How a person looks can either help or hurt them. For example when going to an interview of any sort one is told to "dress for success" or "dress for the role" this is because good impressions are not only nased on what one knows or does but on how one looks as well.

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jamie7539154 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted January 16, 2013 at 2:56 AM (Answer #2)

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I'm not sure exactly what you are referring to when you say "the theme", but I'm assuming you mean the definition in general.  The theme of any literary work is the enduring message or insight about life that the reader is left with after reading and analyzing the work.  Sometimes the "big idea" or essential question of a unit is another way of referring to theme.  You may have heard your teacher use some of these terms in class. 

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magana584 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted October 15, 2013 at 5:26 AM (Answer #1)

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Like any work of literature, there are mutliple possible themes. One possible theme could be, "We should learn to value ourselves before seeking validation from others." From the very beginning of the story you can tell that Alice is very insecure. She bases her self-worth on relationships with boys and popularity in school. This also applies to her relationship with her family: Alice's fear about how her family will react to her mistakes plays a big role in her digging herself deeper into trouble instead of asking for help. This can be seen in the chapters set in San Francisco where she wants to contact them but repeatedly puts it off.


A note on themes: remember that the topic of a book is different from the theme. In my example above, the topic could be "social acceptance" or "self-esteem," but if your teacher is asking for a theme, they probably want to know what the book is saying about that topic. Try to apply your theme to the reader and not just the character(s) in the book. Also, if you can't point to specific parts of the story that show your theme, you should probably pick a different theme.

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Michelle Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted September 10, 2010 at 7:37 AM (Answer #2)

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There are several important themes of Kafka's Metamorphosis, but certainly one that is central and anchors them all is engulfment vs. freedom.

The man in the story is the meal ticket to everyone in his family. However, he feels engulfed even before his transformation took place. He felt trapped by his family, the co-workers, his job, and everything around him. He was so fed up that he would pretend things in his head, talk to himself in hopes to establish firmness in his identity, and dreams of the day when he can heave everything behind.

Yet, he continues to be engulfed by society, his own guilt, his sense of duty, his family's obligations, and the reality of his life.

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